Emmitsburg Council of Churches

God's Gift to a Stressful world

Father John J. Lombardi

Notes from a spiritual retreat at Mary's Mountain

I: "What is inner peace"?

The Resurrected Christ says: "Peace be with you" (Jn. 20:26)

"Be still and KNOW that I am God"-Ps 46:10.

"Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while"-Mk 6:31.

What is inner peace? Peace=Christic Well-being mental-Physic=five words you can pray/remember on your fingers.

St Augustine's famous definition of peace is Tranquilitas ordinis-the tranquility of order. If we have order in our selves (within), in our homes, in our little worlds, then we will have more peace--tranquility, but if we don't, we disorder, and kinda' chaos, and accept this. Perhaps unwittingly we chose this "way of life" and thereby perpetuate it: which Way are you choosing?

The Bible on peace: Genesis15:15 "for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace"; Judges 6:24 "The Lord is peace"; 1 Samuel 10:27 "But he held his peace"; 1Kings 2:23 "there shall be peace from the Lord forevermore"; 2Kings 5:19 "He said to him, 'Go in peace.'"; 1 Chronicles 22:9 "he shall be a man of peace"; 2 Chronicles 14:6 "for the Lord gave him peace"; Psalms 29:11 "May the Lord bless his people with peace", 19:165 "Great peace have those who love your law"; Isaiah 9:6 "Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace", 32:17 "The effect of righteousness will be peace", 60:17 "I will appoint Peace as your overseer"; Zechariah 8:19 "therefore love truth and peace";

John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you",

20:26 "and stood among them again, 'Peace be with you'";

Romans 8:6 "but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace"; 15:13"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace"; Ephesians 4:3 "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"; Philippians 4:9 "and the God of peace will be with you"; Colossians 1:20 "by making peace through the blood of his cross"; 1Peter 3:11 "let them seek peace and pursue it"; 2 Peter 3:14 "strive to be found by him at peace"; Tobit 12:17 "he said to them, 'Do not be afraid; peace be with you".

Review these biblical statements and reflect upon them and how you can achieve peace within-as a Gift of God. We must pursue peace as a result of God giving it to us. Think of Jesus in His Passion before Pilate as He says to him: "You have no power over Me" (Jn. 19:11). Now imprint this in your soul for continual usage in your daily life and apply it to various situations to link with Jesus, and preserve His grace within. He, the God-Man, was at perfect Peace in the worst part of His life, and so can you be at Peace, In Him, thru and with Him.

What are some synonyms for Peace? : calm, quiet, stillness, tranquility, silence, harmony, serenity, concord, end of war, amity, harmony, freedom from strife, reconciliation… Equanimity: composure, calmness, level-headedness, equability, self-control, poise…

And Temper?: anger, rage, bad humor, displeasure, irritation, annoyance, irritability, bad mood, moodiness, sulk, rage, tantrum; bad humor, fit of pique…Disposition: nature, temperament, attitude, state of mind, frame of mind, humor, mood, spirit, constitution, character… And how to Moderate: mitigate, alleviate, lighten, assuage, lessen, tone down, soothe, calm. Review these words and amend to peace!

A "formula of Peace" may be summed up by the letters STP (like the old oil sticker-decal!) = Serenity (of mind) + Tranquility (of body) =Peace. We must have all these in combination.

What are enemies of Peace? One obvious one is stress? Thoughts, Actions, Relationships, Passions are the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" of stress (you may remember them by the acronym "TARP"), which press upon us in inordinate ways and cause continual harm to us. This is not the same a kind of "natural stress" which we all must necessarily undergo-taking care of children, work duties, relationships-these will never go away and we are naVve to think so-we will always have some kind of natural stressors in our lives that we must bear as part of living in the world. There is no "silver bullet" to remove these stresses: we must be realistic. We are now considering undue, inordinate stress-that which we CAN CHANGE.

How, then, is Inner Peace achieved? In essence, what this retreat will stress (pardon pun!) can be reduced to "the Cliff Notes of Peace" of Five Words, the ABC's of Peace: A=Awareness of God and His Gift of Presence which becalms us of anxieties. B=Befriending others-friendships are most important in peacemaking and gaining. C=Choices for peace (making lifestyle changes; inner and outer choices for peace and tranquility). D=Disciplines of renewal (like aspirations, such as: Don't cave in to cravings. Embrace Him: Grace within. E=extending peace to others: when we serve others we de-focus from our own problems and renew our commitment to love of others.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel observed: Why are the folks in the slums seldom depressed and so many of the well-to-do and rich so depressed. Perhaps because of stress and inordinate pursuit of wrongful things and lifestyle choices that come built in with all this.

Two pictures of peace from a story: A king once asked for a painting of peace. One showed a placid lake with beautiful trees mirroring on its surface-blue sky and brilliant sunshine. Another with beautiful waterfalls of billowing mist with clouds overhead and a cave inside the waterfalls and a bird resting with its baby. The first one appears obviously the better picture-painting, but the king chose the second because he said as humans we are like the birds near the beautiful yet turbulent waterfalls and should seek and embrace peace in such environments rather than only in rare pristine-placid conditions.

How are you making decisions and choices for peace? We have to make conscious decisions for simpler lifestyles and possessions and activities for tranquility given our state in life.

Jesus says: "In the world you will have many troubles, but fear not: I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16: 33). While this is true He does want us to have peace-this is God's Gift to us-right relationship to Him. But we have to make the choices and decisions for Peace and relationship with God and others, by: considering God's Grace to you; your strengths and weaknesses; yes, thru serving others; re-creation-both physical and "metaphysical"; spiritual disciplines to help you, as in aspirations, like: Don't cave in to cravings; turn to Him, Grace within! And many other ways we will discover on this blessed retreat.

II: Obstacles and Incentives to Inner Peace

Temperament: Are you irascible, excitable, passionate, or more passive, introverted and calm? How do you react-or, better yet, respond to stress? What is your first movement of will and passion-excitement/irascibility or calm response. This is crucial. Then you must consider your second movement of will/reaction: here you can "over-ride" your initial reaction and choose peace and becalmed decision making and counter the force of external and internal pressures. A general rule of personality and spirituality is: you don't have to "hijack" your personality or change your make-up but, rather, honor what God has made you and curb negative characteristics to conform to God and peace. Perhaps you need to develop a "thick skin" so you don't take things so seriously and lose your peace and thereby don't let others "steal your power" away from you. Are you a "worry wart"/borrowing trouble?…Need to curb and purify vs. hijacking your temperament and doing violence to your personality as God has given you. Avoid extremes…Don't get overly excited or sad, waiting for the other shoe to drop syndrome-strive for the radical middle…. +"Peace be with you" is said three times in the Mass.

External: work, family, world, treadmill, media, difficult people -how can you minimize these in your life (note: it's harmful to extremitize, on the one hand to desire to wipe away all stressful externals and, on the other hand, to always give in to externals as a "victim"-there's a via media between these two extremes.

Internal: here are the main culprits (acronym of "TARP")-

Thinking: giving into anxiety, worry, over-control can lead to depression. We need to change the though processes immediately and repeatedly, and remember St Paul's counsel: "Whatever is true, noble, righteous, beautiful think on these things" (Phil 4:8). A tendency is to try to solve, think of everything all at once and we can thus get overwhelmed - natural. But be supernatural: set goals, plan, and exercise self-discipline over the "monkey mind".

Actions-treadmill/type A personalities have this-keep it going, but: ONLY YOU have the key to turn it off and lovingly say "No" to the stressors of life.

Relationships: if you have wrongful, harmful, unhealthy relationships with others, you will be in turmoil; or if you are continually exposed to "difficult people" - this causes harm. Remember loving detachment and also reconciliation and fraternal correction, lovingly.

Passions: do you let your sadness, fear, heart, anger, love get too overly involved and "Get the best of you"? Think of the passions as energetic, excitable horses-good when bridled and controlled, but bad when going their own, chaotic, crazy way. We all need to use reason and intellect to subdue them.

Incentives: Say to self/soul: I don't have to live this way. It is a choice. "For freedom Christ freed you" (Gal 5). The Lord desires my freedom from worry and anxiety and troubles-with His grace.

Be more of a clear channel for God to use for salvation and healing.

Christ commands, counsels peace to us--Mass/Resurrection: Jesus says, Peace be with you" (Jn.20:26).

Peace is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22): like a fruit tree bearing/giving fruit from it's inner "store," I too should give forth peace to others. It should be "second nature" if I am alive in the Holy Spirit.

Bring peace to others; help family, co-workers, others by having a healthier lifestyle. I will be more productive if I have Peace within.

Okay, now, you have more Peace!...To be continued in August!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi