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The Gospel this week will tell us how to achieve unshakeable peace

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Pay attention this Sunday to find what we all want, and how to make sure it can't be taken away

We can all relate to the feeling the apostles have when they return from their mission and report to Jesus all they have done, as we hear this Sunday (the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time).

When Jesus tells them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” they are sure they are in for a well-deserved break.

That’s not what they get. Instead, they learn where real peace and rest come from.

Peace comes from good, hard work.

Jesus, being God, knows what is going to happen. As soon as they head to vacation, “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.”

On their break from work, they find … even more work.

But they do get a kind of “rest.”

“The great happiness of those days can be seen from the hard work of those who taught and the enthusiasm of those who learned,” wrote St. Bede.

The Apostles learn that real rest doesn’t come from having nothing to do, but from doing what you must — with Christ.

That doesn’t necessarily mean preaching. Lasting peace comes from doing what God asks you to do — which usually means doing your same-old job, sometimes tedious household chores, and dealing with family, friends and neighbors.

The difference isn’t what you do, it’s whether or not you do your job with Christ. But what does it mean to “do your job with Christ”?

Peace comes from tearing down the wall in your heart.

The Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote against the temptation to think that other people are the cause of the problems we confront.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” he said. “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Each of us has this struggle within us. We are each deceitful, greedy, lazy, lustful, prone to harsh judgments and to wallowing in self-pity.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, says Jesus Christ “is our peace” because he “broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through the cross, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace.”

Jesus Christ found a way to break into that part of our heart we barely acknowledge and rarely visit. That way, says the reading, is the cross.

It hurts to face our petty vices and unsavory desires and break from them. But there is no other path to peace than to shoulder that cross and do it.

Peace without Jesus Christ is impossible.

Along with the cross of facing our darkness comes the light of grace, above all through the Holy Spirit who Christ brings to breaks down the wall in our heart. He writes his law on our hearts, inspires our hearts to pray and fills our heart with God’s love.

Healing is his work, not ours. But it only comes if we welcome him into our lives.

We won’t be at peace if we don’t talk to God.

We won’t be at peace if we try to do the minimum for God while trying to maximize our comfort.

We won’t be at peace if we redefine God to better suit our purposes.

We will only be at peace if we are honest about who God is and who we are, and invite him in.

But if we do, great things await.

With Jesus Christ, peace is unassailable.

The Church has always seen today’s Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd,” as a vision of what life in Christ looks like.

It is a vision of what life looks like for someone with the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil,” says the Psalm. “Goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.”

It is, in fact, a picture of what the apostles felt when their vacation was so rudely interrupted: An unshakeable peace.

We are lost and frightened in the world, following paths that lead nowhere, anxious and alone. We are like sheep without a shepherd.

Well, now we have one.

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