We all want peace, but peace is not easy to attain. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifices to find the true peace that exists deep from within, gives life, and is much more than what the world defines it to be. Peace is not just an absence of war or some type of political or social utopia, it is a state of rest, belonging, and being loved by God — even at times when life gets challenging and hard. Peace is desired by all, but it is not easy to attain. It takes a lot of patience to seek, love, and desire the will of God in our lives so as to attain the real peace that gives life from within.
We complain when things do not go our way. Heck, we complain when we do not get our deliveries on time, when UPS, FedEx, or the Post Office seems slower than normal, especially around the holiday or peak seasons. We are so used to having Amazon Prime or these prepaid, subscription, or delivery services giving us what we want fast that we have run short on patience and forget how to truly wait for the things that are good. Nonetheless, the biggest truth and irony in life is that all good things that are hard to attain often require a lot of sacrifices, hard work, tenacity, and perseverance. We lack patience because we are scared of not being in control and having things our way. However, if we are constantly on the move, restless, and never have the chance to reflect on what is important, we will never have the time to appreciate and enjoy the things that are right in front of us.
When we practice patience, we step back, personally and intentionally creating the space and time for God to intervene, make Himself present, and teach us in each and every encounter, person, or moment that is right in front of us. When we practice patience, we expand our horizons and awaken both our natural and spiritual senses, especially our gentle practice of situational awareness. We allow ourselves to discover and see His own small moments of teaching, presence, and signs of love hidden and interwoven in the present moment. Too oftentimes, we can impatiently rush through things and miss what God is trying to show us in small, gentle, thoughtful, and loving ways in a blink of an eye.
When we willingly practice patience, we invite God in and allow ourselves to really understand the person, moment, encounter, or situation instead of simply avoiding, calculating, problem-solving, or whatever else we desired in order to truly see Him as He is. Patience is hard because it requires us to let go of our expectations and demands, step back from being controlling and self-focused, and see life and reality as it is instead of what it should be for us. Patience is the first step of self-abandonment and trust, being able to see God‘s divine, personal, and loving presence in the midst of everything that is going on instead of our own myopic or self-centered perception. Let us be very honest with ourselves, which is very hard and has to be something personally willed, in order for us to step outside of our own little universe and bubble to see life as it is, especially to let go and see what God is trying to teach us in the midst of everything that is going on all around us.
In a noisy and busy world, we have adapted and allowed ourselves to become like the many people who are constantly running and on the move. We pace ourselves with the never-ending speed of tackling one thing after another. We have, sadly, taught ourselves to attain goals and objectives, to solve and eliminate problems and obstacles, just hoping to have a little bit of rest, enjoyment, or fulfillment in between. Nevertheless, what is pitiful is that we have objectified our happiness based on sensational, apparent, sentimental, emotional, or passing matters that are constantly changing. However, they make us feel depleted, angry, frustrated, resentful, and restless in the end. This worldly and temporary sense of happiness is so short-lived that we keep chasing, vainly hoping, and ignorantly wanting things just for a short while before life becomes empty and unfulfilling again. Hence, we have created for ourselves the vicious cycle of chasing after the things that do not make us happy or fulfilled.
In the midst of all of these passing things, we are reminded that we need to find true peace and rest in God. This desire has to be enlivened with personal willingness, discipline, and sacrificial priorities to actually step back, slow down, and be aware as to recognize, receive, and respond to His presence and goodness. This is hard and we cannot do it unless we are willing to allow God to be God by humbling, slowing down, and genuinely receiving Him as He is in His infinite beauty and providence. Furthermore, just because we think that we are ready, it does not mean that He has to be on our schedule either. We have to remember that He has the freedom to speak and teach us according to His providential care, and we receive as we are able. On our part, we can stretch our souls to desire and make the time necessary so He can speak to us deep from within. We can, indeed, begin small but add more opportunities, intervals, awareness, and simplicity in order to truly receive, recognize, and respond to His presence and lessons.
True peace is indeed hard to find and attain! It is not easy to be in the depth of God‘s loving peace, because all the saints struggled to remain with Him. Unfortunately, too, the Devil often attacks, discourages, and makes up lies to distract and fill us with despair so we can lose our focus on His divine presence and mature in our love for Him. For those who truly love God, many obstacles will arise, problems will come up, and challenges will present themselves in different ways; nevertheless, the saints had to choose to love and the people who continue to seek His will all have to desire to love Him above all things — even when life gets trying. This is not easy for us as human beings to comprehend, desire, or like this imperfect reality!
We are here because God has been patient and merciful toward us. If He has lost His patience for us, we would not survive His justice. Therefore, if we have been the recipient of His loving peace and patience, we should learn to be patient and loving toward Him and others. Hence, I would like to introduce to you a beautiful example of discipleship from a person who taught us what it means to have peace and patiently love God in the midst of her trials and hardship! That person is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As we know from Holy Tradition, she desired to dedicate her life to God, but He radically changed her plan through the Annunciation. A young girl was confronted with a choice that could endanger her very own life! She had to radically trust that this was the will of God for her and embraced it in the midst of many uncertainties. Imagine the misunderstandings, gossip, and loneliness that she felt as the bore the Son of God in her womb. As we can tell from the Gospel of St. Matthew, even St. Joseph wanted to divorce her quietly because he was a just man — if it was not for the angel’s reassurance. Imagine what would have happened if he was not a just and gentle man who demanded retribution for a pregnancy that he did not know! The punishment for adultery would have been stoned to death, which is a horrible, slow, and painful sentence as one bleeds to her own mortality. Yet, Mary knew those possibilities and she was willing to embrace all of that because her mind was set on loving God.
However, just because she understood and trusted the message of the Annunciation, it did not mean that things somehow got better and easier for her. She continued to bear many trials and hardships throughout her very own life! Imagine the guilt she must have bore when she could not find a proper place to give birth to her only-begotten Son. Imagine the sadness that both she and St. Joseph had to face when they constantly got rejected because there was no room at the inn for them. Imagine the helplessness and immense pains she must have felt standing at the foot of the Cross, then having to embrace His lifeless body after He was exhausted from the tortures, pains, and sufferings. Throughout her very own life, Mother Mary taught us that her FIAT to God has always been a personal, loving, and humble one, even at times when she did not understand why when things were out of control, and when life was met with many obstacles, challenges, and rejections.
In our very own lives, too, we will be met with many obstacles and challenges that could seem to be deterrents and stumbling blocks, telling us to abandon faith, filling us with despair, or lying to us in saying that God has abandoned us. The Devil will feed those lies telling us that we are not holy enough or feed on to our ego by telling us that we are too good for this made-up religious stuff. He will tell us to ignore and abandon God to live our own self-centered aspirations, desires, and wishes in order to search for our very own made-up version of utopia, passing happiness, and false joy. Perhaps all these things will be pleasing, pleasurable, and appealing for a short moment, but we will forever be chasing after matters that leave us empty, restless, and unfulfilled because there is a space deep within our very own souls that are reserved and can only be filled with God alone. This sacred meeting ground and intimate space is the place where we find our true peace to rest and receive the love of God in very simple, unpretentious, intimate, seem-to-be insignificant, and small ways.
But, this is the way of our Creator! He gave us everything… and He desires our everything, too! Love desires love… and not just half-hearted, noncommittal, sometimes love, but total, self-giving, sacrificial, and personal love through a life of personal faith and discipleship, communal worship, and service. Think about it… what can we give to the King of our hearts for the gifts given to us except our very own life and its genuine desire to have Him be the center of it all? He does not need anything else — nothing of earthly or materialistic values — just heart-to-heart, genuine, humble, self-giving, and total love!
The Lord Jesus Christ had everything at His command and could choose to live as whatever He wanted, but He chose to be poor, to be near the forgotten, ignored, and abandoned. The Savior chose simplicity because He wanted our love, not just some pretentious titles, riches, wealth, or achievements. He just wants our genuine heart, love, and devotion!
There are a lot of things to reflect upon and think about. Please take some time to reflect and pray about what it means to have peace and patience in order to truly love Him, especially as we enter the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday. We do have a choice! We can all make changes so Christ is the center of our lives and our faith is renewed and enlivened in our life of worship, prayer, and exchanges with one another.