1st Sunday of Advent C

Ominous signs will appear.  The sun and the moon and the stars will change.  Waves will rise and the seas will roar.  Nations will be in upheaval.  It will be so bad that the fright of all this actually kills people.  Then the Son of Man will come riding in a cloud into this turmoil.  But it is different for the Christian.  While everyone else is falling apart, the believer, unafraid, will stand erect and lift their heads.  Their redemption is now at hand.

Why is it different for the believer?  It is different because we have a relationship with the one who is to come.  He is our savior, our hope and our friend.  It is different because this is not what we fear, but what we pray for – “Thy kingdom come.”  We are not afraid because we possess something utterly unassailable – the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is pretty important data.  We say it five times each mass.  It frames our vision of how we see everything.  If we trust in the peace of the Lord we know we are blessed, chosen, loved and saved.  We know what everyone wants to know at any time but especially at the most daunting or trying of times, when the winds buffet and the darkness seems to envelop everything.

For many of us, this is an ominous time in our lives or for our nation.  It certainly is a dark time in our church.  We can flee or we can stand erect, lift our heads and demand justice, seek peace and be reconcilers of those who have been hurt.  We must begin to heal and repair from the only strength that endures – the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It was a peace bought at a cost.  The cost of the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas, Christ’s life among us, his suffering, the cross and the resurrection. It is the unblinking proof that we are truly loved, truly transformed in his peace.

We all possess this peace.  It was conferred upon us at baptism when we were claimed by the love of Christ.  But we must believe in it and live by it as well.  We must see ourselves as the desired of God.  We must believe in the Gospel and live by its commands.  We must love one another as Christ has loved us.  It is the most pure gift of Christ.  It is the gift the world waits for us to share.

I lied before.  We do not share peace five times each mass.  We share it five time plus all those within a four foot circumference (providing we do not cross aisles.  Catholics don’t do that.  That would be chaos!) with whom we share a sign of the Lord’s peace. Think about when this occurs – right before we receive the Eucharist.  We share Jesus before we receive him, we act as the body of Christ before we consume it.  This is communion among ourselves before communion with God.

Think of what we are doing.  As we prepare for the incarnation of the Lord, when the Word of God took flesh to live among us, we press our flesh into another’s.  Think about what we are sharing.  The peace of Christ within us is the result of the complete self-giving of Jesus.  If we are to share it with others, we must give something of ourselves.  It must be more than a wan wave or is a disinterested nod.  We are forming a community of true concern.  At least for that moment, let them into your life. Pray for them.  Care for them.  When the practice first started in the church, it was known as the kiss of peace.  A kiss was reserved for just family members.  This is a sign that we are a family of believers and lovers of Christ.  And with family, we give our best.

I have a strategy at the sign of peace.  I look around for who might need that peace.  People who are hurting, those who may not have been around lately, certainly anyone sitting alone.  Sometimes I will see a new young couple and get all excited and head over to share peace with them, thinking keep calm, don’t get too excited, act like this happens all the time, and calmly say, “Peace be with you” but deep down I am giddy.

This year it is our intention to welcome all.  But our welcome does not consist of a casual hello.  We are welcoming everyone into something deeper, more profound.   We are welcoming to be a part of true family of believers forming a community of disciples.  We welcome them into the peace of Jesus Christ.

May the Peace of the Lord be with you all.