The Gift Oof Personal Peace

by Rev. Mark Connolly

This month I would like to share a few thoughts with you on the subject of personal peace while experiencing adversity. If you study the life of Christ, there are many lessons that he has mentioned over and over on the subject of peace. My peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. If you study the whole life of Christ, you might recall that for every moment of his days on earth, he had an intuition as to what his final moment on this earth would be. He knew that he would be going through an agony, a scourging, crowning and a crucifixion. Yet, with this thought hanging over his mind, he still found time to offer peace to the woman taken in adultery, to offer peace as shown in the story of the prodigal son, to offer peace to the good thief. Never did Christ lose his peace of mind despite the abuses he endured, the maltreated he experienced or the desolate kind of death that was his.

Peace of mind was something that Christ held before us. No matter who you are, Christ said during his life that no one can ever take away your peace of mind. If you translate that directive of Christ in today's living, he could say to everyone in this Church no one has the right to endanger or jeopardize your peace of mind. And you, as an individual, can never abdicate or lose your peace of mind because of tension or pressure that you might experience in your own home. To put it more clearly, no one in your home, a wife or a husband, a son or a daughter, in-law, relative or friend, has any right to take away from your mind this precious gift that Christ has told us we must hold on to at all costs.

Concerning peace of mind, we have in our lifetime three classic examples of individuals who during great adversity never lost their peace of mind. They should be role models to all of us because basically they have been contemporaries of all of us. The three men are Cardinal Cooke, Cardinal Bernandine and Cardinal O'Connor.

I had the opportunity of working for over 15 years with Cardinal Cooke. Every year he celebrated the Christmas and Easter Masses on television. Because of the leukemia and the cancer that was racking his body, whenever he taped a Mass, remember each Mass is one hour, he had to go to the hospital and get a total blood transfusion just to get the strength to go through the arduous television program. Even after he got out of the hospital and came to the studio, being quite weak, he was always at peace with himself, never complaining, never gripping, never wondering why he had the scourge of cancer. In fact, at times, when you talked to him, he gave you the impression he was anxious to leave this world and enjoy the future home of Christ and peace in the kingdom of God.

If you study the life of Cardinal Bernandine of Chicago, who died in 1996, you have the same story of a man who was revered, and who in the twilight of his life was accused of an immoral act with a young man and the young man totally apologized, totally indicated that he was wrong in accusing the Cardinal. The Cardinal went over to this apartment and offered forgiveness and absolution. They said Mass together, both being totally reconciled and at peace. The Cardinal died a short time later.

The third man, Cardinal O'Connor, as everyone knows has been at Sloan Kettering Hospital and going through all the cancer treatments that are so common to that hospital. His secretary has told me, Father Mark, you cannot believe the composure and the peace of mind he has. In his column in the New York newspaper, the Cardinal himself spoke of knowing what could be ahead of him and said, "I do not know what the outcome is or will be, but I know I have unutterable peace." This was the first time in years that Cardinal O'Connor did not preach the seven last words on Good Friday. He is living the Passion of Christ on a bed of pain similar to the Cross on which Christ died. But he has "unutterable peace."

When you take the lives of these three men and you put them all together, there are certain similarities they share in their living and dying that we have to implement in our every day way of living.

First, all of them show an unusual degree of acceptance to the will of God at this particular moment in their lives. All of them were familiarized with the story of Christ in the Garden of Olives where he said, "my soul is sorrowful unto death", and then a short time later said, "Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me. They took as their role model the same Jesus Christ who went through horrendous suffering and linked their personal suffering with his. No matter how young or old we might be, all of us are one day going to have a date and destiny with God. All of those men knew that they are only on this earth a short span of time to do the work and the will of God. We can complain. We can gripe. We can murmur. But that is only wasting our time. It is when we accept what God gives us, the way Christ accepted what God gave him, that there is going to be more value in our suffering. Basic principle we can never forget. Suffering did not pass by Christ, it is not going to pass by us. It is only when we have a sense of acceptance that prompts us everyday to say, not my will be done, O God, but yours. Only when we unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ are we going to have that quality of true peace of mind that Christ had when he said, "my peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you."

The next quality that has to be kept in mind concerning the preservation of peace of mind is conformity with the will of God. As Shakespeare once said, while we are on this earth, we are players on a stage and each one is given a definite role, a definite assignment that must be fulfilled by each one of us. Your life in the sight of God is very important. You are a link in a chain. You are a unique personality. You have been given talents that no one else has been given. During your life every one of those talents has to be used to give honor and glory to God. Without trying to be morbid or pessimistic, all of us are going to suffer and die, but we also have to keep in mind we have a glorious reunion with God ahead of us. We have a glorious reward that we can anticipate. We have a glorious resurrection of a body and soul. Without keeping these themes in mind, suffering will always be a complicated event in our lives. Without concentrating on utilizing the talents God has given us, we run the risk of not having on earth the peace that Christ has in mind when he said, "my peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you." Peace of mind is a precious commodity. I mentioned that we cannot allow anyone to take it away from us. We cannot allow anything to take it away from us. Constantly, every scripture writer goes back to the quotation of St. Augustine when he said, "you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you."

While we are on this earth our one aim has to be developed during times of adversity, a greater sense of acceptance and a greater conformity to the will of God. In doing so we will not only have greater peace on this earth, we will have greater peace in the kingdom of God.

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