Reflection for Sunday – May 1, 2016
Preacher: Kathi Piehler
When I first read the Gospel for May 1 the word that jumped out at me was PEACE.
The Lord, speaking to His disciples, says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” I thought to myself: I am the last person in the world who should be writing a reflection on PEACE! I am not at peace with some members of my extended family. I am not at peace with certain aspects my Church. I am not at peace with the state of the world, nor am I at peace with the politics of our country. I am not at peace with my health. I am not at peace with this “stage of my life” (being 66 years old and all that comes with that). I am not at peace with myself, in general.
The scripture continues with: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” That is when I immediately thought of my friends—Chuck and Linda—from a small town in Pennsylvania. Chuck and my husband, Mike, are fellow automobile dealers and started as business acquaintances over 20 years ago—a relationship that has grown into a close friendship among the four of us. Linda has been plagued with constant, catastrophic (some chronic, some acute) illnesses for as long as I can remember—many requiring extensive surgeries. Her doctor’s chart reads like a medical textbook. But she has always been the epitome of calm and grace—she has always been gifted with the peace the Gospel speaks of. Chuck has been the caring (and quite healthy) husband through all of Linda’s illnesses.
However, all that peace could have come to a screeching halt this past December (2015) when we received an email from Chuck explaining that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 metastatic lung cancer. Here is the last paragraph of Chuck’s first gang email to close family and friends:
“I am writing as mentioned because I wanted you to hear this from me (although I am trying to keep this quiet). You are the people who I feel can pray for God’s will to be done and for me and my family to get the strength from God to deal with this. Yes, I want to beat this but I feel most comfortable praying for the strength to accept God’s will and I ask you to pray for that also. We will try and keep you posted but you won’t hear from us before Christmas—this is enough!! God bless. Chuck & Linda”
I was dumbfounded. Don’t we all pray for miracles when we get such bad news? Don’t we pray for a cure? Don’t we pray, even as Jesus did—that this cup might pass? Then it struck me. What my friends are praying for is peace. The peace that has always been the hallmark of their lives through thick and thin.
Just when you think it can’t get much worse, in the middle of rounds and rounds of chemo and radiation at a hospital which is a 2 hour drive from their hometown, Linda suffers yet another serious, acute illness of her own and is hospitalized.
On December 29 we received the next email update:
“Please continue your prayers as I think God listens when people show they care about a friend. Please pray that we can accept God’s will lovingly. And the other thing you can do for me is smile at your spouse and smile at your kids, give them each a great big hug, and appreciate what you have been given–a family and time. With appreciation for your friendship, Chuck and Linda”
What goes through my mind is, “OK, Lord! Enough is enough for these folks. What is next, a swarm of locusts and a drought?!” I re-read Chuck’s words. He not only prays for acceptance but that he is able to do so “lovingly.” Heck, most of us are not always “loving” in good times, let alone bad. What is Chuck’s secret?
On January 27 Chuck writes:
“In addition to asking you to include us in your prayers, I have picked up the pace with my praying. And asking God to give me the strength to accept His will has not been easy to keep in first place but I do believe it is the way to a peaceful heart and a calmness that I cannot get by praying for my obvious desires. I also believe God has listened to your prayers cause some of you were hand picked cause I didn’t think some of you prayed much!! I will never say who but I think those prayers come across real loud and meaningful. And of course the rest are very valuable also cause God has been friends with you for quite a while—Now just keep including Linda and me in your prayers and don’t worry which group you are in because all will be friends with God by the time we are done with this.
Look, we just do not know how to thank you for being our friend and being concerned with our situations. I do not think I understood what friendship meant until this thing started. I also did not know what helplessness felt like until this came along. This is an embarrassing reason to say I have grown in my faith but that is what is happening. And I sincerely hope that I continue growing in faith if God leaves me here cause it will take that continuance to legitimize my relationship with God. Sorry, didn’t mean to preach—don’t have a license—but these are my thoughts and remember—the Bible says what comes out of our mouth (or e-mail) is the overflow of our hearts. Hope that is true for this note. Thx for your friendship and prayers—Chuck and Linda”
In scripture the word for peace is shalom. Shalom never means just the lack of trouble or lack of conflict. Nor is it the escapism peace that the secular world offers us through illegal drugs, illicit sexual encounters (that proverbial “one-night stand”) and selfishness of all sorts. Shalom is more than that!
Shalom/Peace is a gift that, according to scripture scholar William Barclay, “no experience of life can take from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can ever make it less”.
What Barclay is saying is that nothing that life throws at us can take from us that peace that Jesus gave His disciples two thousand years ago. Jesus continues to offer to all of us today—a peace that we, who are suffering or troubled or frightened, are starving for. This reality of Christ’s Peace, ALIVE, is more than evident in the lives of Chuck and Linda.
You see, Chuck and Linda bring us powerful Good News that this peace is possible. They have trusted in Jesus as their Prince of Peace for a lifetime. Chuck’s and Linda’s daily prayers and strong sacramental life have kept them connected to the Lord’s Gift of Peace—no matter what pain comes their way (and there has been much!).
Shalom, my friends. It is within our grasp.