Make Peace in Your Heart
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, August 14, 2016
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (10:38-42; 11:27-28)
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Martha is not still and so she misses the obvious presence of God right there in her own living room. She is so concerned about herself, so full of herself and her serving, that she cannot think of anything else. Sometimes it’s just better to order out. Antony De Mello’s has an interesting take on this. Although he speaks specifically about silence the same can be said of stillness for they are closely related. He writes, “Silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of self.”
Martha attempted to throw herself a pity party and she issued an invitation to Jesus, but he refused. He knew that Mary was not the cause of Martha’s troubles; it was Martha. The log was in her eye, not Mary’s. “Martha,” he said, “you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Martha was the cause of her own suffering. We are, in fact, usually the cause of our own suffering.
A man I know went to a therapist because he was unhappy in his marriage. After spilling his guts about all the terrible things his wife had done, the therapist wisely turned the tables and said, “That’s interesting, but what I want to know is why you are really here. What is it you are not telling me?” And it was true! The man growled at the therapist, left the office abruptly and years later realized how right the therapist had been! There was something else. The problem was in him!
This is the first lesson we must learn if we are to understand what stillness is: never blame others. Look inside and discover what needs to change and change it. “If it is peace you want,” writes De Mello again, “seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole earth.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa points to this when he writes, “Peace is defined as harmony among those who are divided. When, therefore, we end the civil war within our nature and cultivate peace within ourselves, we become…peace.” So when the prophet spoke of “turning swords into plowshares” I believe he was speaking to the need for stopping wars both inside and out.
Jesus tells us. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” At the prison two weeks ago, Yianno Pantazelos and I did a little biblical word study: what is the Greek word used in the Sermon on the Mount for “peacemakers?” We discovered something interesting. It is a compound word that links together the word for “peace” which is eirine and another word, pige, which means fountain. Blessed, then, are those who become fountains of peace! It reminds me of another scripture verse from John’s Gospel, “out of your bellies shall flow rivers of living water.” See the connection? The goal of the Christian life is to become a fountain of peace!
Other saints and fathers speak of the preeminence of internal peace-making as well. Like Seraphim of Sarov who said, “Make peace in your own heart and thousands around you will be saved.” And the elder Thaddeus who warned, “Do not let anything take away your peace of mind.” Nothing. Nothing.
What do we need to do to stop the war within? Learn how to sit in stillness like Mary. Sit in stillness at the feet of the Master. Listen to his voice and listen to his silence Lay aside all earthly cares at least for a few minutes every day and go inside. Does it not make sense that if we meditate in peace and on peace we will be at peace? Try it and see for yourself. You can bring compassion and transformation to everything you find within that is not at peace. The Buddhist saying is more than appropriate , “Let everything be as it is and rest your weary mind.”
Yes, rest! Can you imagine? In this world that demands all our attention, all our time, all our energy, we are called to stop and be still and give God a place in our lives. In other words, we are all called to be mystics! Stillness is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom tells a beautiful story about a priest in a little Catholic parish in France who would often find an old man sitting alone in a pew. He watched him for some time and discovered that he did nothing at all except sit quietly and in stillness. The priest never heard say or word or pray a rosary. He would just sit very still and be very quiet. Finally, after observing him for some time, the priest asked him, “When you are in Church, what do you do?” The man replied, “I look at my Lord and he looks back at me.”
That is enough. More than enough.