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The Elusivity of Peace


“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” ~ John F. Kennedy

In the classic Twilight Zone Episode “Elegy,” the 20th Episode of the pioneering SciFi program’s 1st Season, Astronauts Meyers, Webber, and Kirby are forced to abruptly land their spaceship on a remote asteroid in the year 2186. Upon opening the hatch of the capsule, they rather surprisingly find themselves in a place that resembles Earth, but with one conspicuous exception; there are no people.

As they begin to explore, they first arrive at a farm where they can find no one but a lone farmer gazing off into the distance. Upon approaching him, they come to realize that he is merely a statue. The men have a number of similar encounters as they make their way through this quaint albeit statue-laden town; even the animals are motionless.

Suddenly however they are startled to find someone who does in fact move (and talk), an affable elderly gentlemen named Wickwire, who calls himself “the caretaker of this place.” Wickwire explains to the astronauts that they have landed on what he calls, for lack of a better term, an “exclusive cemetery” called Happy Glades. Founded in 1973, Happy Glades was established as a destination where the wealthy can live out their life's greatest fantasy.

.....after they die that is.

The Astronauts inform Wickwire that a nuclear war destroyed much of the Earth in 1985 and that it’s taken over two hundred years to recover from it. Wickwire offers the three men some wine and asks them what their greatest desire is. All three reply In unison that they wish that their ship was repaired so that they could soon be homeward bound. They suddenly realize that their drinks have been dosed however, and as the three men agonizingly recede into the waning moments of their lives, one of them asks Wickwire “Why? . . Why would you do this to us?”

Wickwire, who we come to learn is actually a robot that has been deactivated for about 200 years and only “boots up” for occasional duties such as cleaning and dusting, explains that it's his job to ensure peace and tranquility at Happy Glades. He then goes on to utter the sardonic phrase that I will always remember: "You see you are men,” Wickwire explains, “and where there are men, there can be no peace."

As the episode concludes, we see Wickwire re-installIng the embalmed astronauts in their spaceship, posing them at their designated posts as if they were in fact indeed on their way home, which was as you’ll recall their deepest desire. One thing you can say about the cagey Wickwire: he delivers on his promises.

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Where there are men, there can be no peace. It’s hard to argue with that statement.

Bitter and unending wars, terrorism, domestic violence, escalating racial tensions, divisive political factions and discourse; these are but a few of the afflictions prevalent today that contribute to the perpetual state of conflict we find ourselves mired in. But what about the war that rages within? Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults ~ almost 1 in 5 people. Depression rampages through our society like a noncontagious, cognitive plague, relentlessly percolating in the recesses of our psyches.

Why is peace, whether it be of the global or individual inner variety, so elusive?

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Jesus tells his disciples in the opening stages of today’s Gospel (John 14:27-31) going on however to challenge their very concept and preconceived notions of this virtue of peace.

“Not as the world gives do I give it to you.“ I touched briefly on the topic of Jesus’ brand of peace a few weeks ago when Matthew’s rendition of this encounter was proclaimed during daily mass and as we revisit it today, poised to celebrate the Ascension of Jesus in a week or so, it allows us to reflect upon the Holy Spirit’s role in our pursuit of this peace.

“I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming,“ Jesus says, in a nod to the fact that the days ahead will be stormy. This we know, for the “ruler of the world,” the secular world, is a reference to the Prince of Darkness, Satan. “He has no power over me,” Jesus assure his disciples, “ but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.” Obedience and humility would be his final teaching with these words, but as we’ve seen over the last few days, the Holy Spirit would in essence take the baton, with Jesus remaining in our midst by way of the Eucharist, Scripture and the Sacraments.

Through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, obedience to God’s Commandments and a love of the Father that seeks to mirror the Son’s love for the Father, Satan will have no power over us. Fact is, it’s the only way that Satan will have no power over us. To quote Saint Thalassios of Libya, “According to the degree to which the intellect is stripped of the passions, the Holy Spirit initiates the intellect into the mysteries of the age to be.”

We realign our lives with the sacred liturgical mysteries of our faith when we allow the Holy Spirit to move within us, and in doing so we free ourselves of the shackles of sin, vice and anxiety. When God welds his power, whether it be by way of the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit, or through the truth of his teachings and commandments, there is no one who can stand in opposition to him.

Receptivity to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, free gifts from God given to all those who seek them, is the true path to genuine peace, the peace they Jesus yearns to give each one of us. Remaining open to the Spirit allows one to live in the Spirit, the spirit of truth. The spirit of tranquility.

The spirit of peace.

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