Mission Monthly – December 1996

Bumper stickers have never been my thing but several years ago I came across one whose message really touched my heart. It read:


Without hesitation I purchased it and adhered it to my bumper. Within one week while stopped at a stop light a man pulled up next to me, honked, signaled for me to roll down my window and yelled out, “Hey! Great bumper sticker!” I smiled and waved as the light turned green and we each went our way.

That encounter sticks with me to this day and is especially memorable as we approach the Holy Nativity of our Lord, the time of the year when we hear so much about the Peace of God. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased,” cried the Hosts of Heaven at the birth of the incarnate Son of God (Luke 2.14). St. Paul instructed, “He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near… ” (Eph. 2.17). Indeed, Jesus came for the Gentile and the Jew, the entire human race, to establish the Kingdom of Heaven as, the hymn-writers often proclaim, “the Lover of Mankind.”

Yet year after year Christmas comes and goes and the world (and sometimes even our churches) remain rutted in the mire of chaos, refusing to embrace the very Answer to the question, “Why? Why is there so much anxiety, confusion, loneliness, anger, sadness, dishonesty, wastefulness, disrespect for life, envy, selfishness, hostility, hunger, infidelity, etc …?” Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Yes, all these things we can expect, but Jesus also said, “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16.33).

The ascetic Fathers of the Church refer to the state of dispassion or “apaqeia” (apatheia) as a state of reintegration and spiritual freedom. St. Isaiah the Solitary regarded dispassion as the state where the passions are exercised, through obedience and grace, in accordance with their original purity. Dispassion is where our inner state is no longer effected by external forces, where we can be detached and impartial but never indifferent or insensitive. This Peace of God, the graceful calm that we receive when we truly trust and obey God, finds its beginning in love, forgiveness, prayer and fasting, and in a generous spirit. Jesus teaches us to, “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6.28). Think of what He is teaching us! Let His Grace be sufficient! For the One born in Bethleham, He is the One who has broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2.14) and through Him we truly can… KNOW PEACE! May the blessing of peace this Holy Nativity be upon us all!

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