"May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This blessing, used by the priest at the end to the Eucharistic Service, comes from Paul's Letter to the Philippians 4:7.
What is the "peace of God"? Well, let's first start with "peace." What is "peace?" If, like me, you are a child of the '70s, the first thing that comes to mind is the "peace sign" made popular by hippies and then by President Nixon as he boarded the presidential helicopter as he left the White House for the last time.
Peace signs made in jewelry and art have been and currently are very popular. My daughter just received a T-shirt for her birthday that has an artistic peace sign on it.
Back to the original question: What is the "peace of God"?
I took a bike ride the other day in order to clear my head, get some aerobic exercise, pray and seek some peace. I rode to the Palm Beach Inlet. On the bike path along the water, I saw a man sitting on a mat in a yoga styled position. He was sitting still with his eyes closed. I assumed that he was meditating. I went further down the path and I stopped facing the inlet. I just stared over the lapping water watching an occasional boat go by. I meditated on this passage from Paul: "the peace of God."
I thought about where God has lead me in my life: from being a child growing up here in Riviera Beach, to a student and an altar boy at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church a block west of here, to high school, to Catholic seminary, out of seminary into a successful marriage relationship with my wife Cathleen for 25 + years, to rearing two wonderful children - meaning full of wonder - Charlie and Beth for 20 + years. To working as a lawyer and mediator for 20 + years, to being invited to help out a youth group at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, to meeting salt of the earth people at St. Mark's, who witnessed me back into an ever deeper relationship with God. To waking up in the middle of the night with dreams of becoming a priest. To meeting Bishop Frade five years ago, who invited me to become an Episcopal priest, to five years later being ordained an Episcopal priest!
Now God has returned me full circle to Riviera Beach to serve as a priest at St. George's Episcopal Church and Center. You cannot make this stuff up!
I realized that if God can take a kid from Riviera Beach and mold and fashion him to what God wants and needs in this community, then I need to "go all in", "push all my chips in" and dive in head first into this life of becoming a priest to witness for Him: it is God, who is really in control. God simply wants to be your partner. When you choose to become a partner with God, you will experience the "peace of God."
Oh yes, you have a choice in the matter. You can run from God and you can dodge him. When you have finished all your maneuvering and meditate on why you are here on this earth -- when you choose to join into partnership with God, you will find out that what God really wants you to do. You will find that what God wants you to do -- will make you deeply satisfied and you will experience "the peace of God."
I implore you to find that quiet place in your home, outside, near the water - wherever you can have ten minutes a day of peace. Seek God and he will find you. Talk to God when he is near.
Ask God in this season of Advent - our time of waiting for Jesus to come into the world - to open your hearts and minds to discern and follow what he wants you to do each day. Follow the cues and clues of goodness and kindness, love and joy in helping people today and every day.
"May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ." Amen.
Father Mike on the date of his Priestly Ordination: December 13, 2009