Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 9 May 2010

Fishing boat on Sea of Galilee,  1898

Fishing boat on Sea of Galilee, 1898

Most of the time we would like more peace.  Yet we live in a world of tension.  Even the closest of families sometimes have to deal with eruptions of anger.  The most loving spouses can be at loggerheads.  Friends and neighbours can fall out.  On a larger scale we know of conflict and war in the world.  In the Church itself we find disagreements which can be painful at times, and the media love to portray us as divided between conservative and liberal.  Does this mean that we are on the wrong track?  After all, Jesus promised that he would give us peace.

Peace is much more than the absence of conflict.  To be free of conflict might mean that nothing much is happening in your life.  The peace that Christ gives us is something deeper and richer.  It comes from knowing that Christ is there in our heart, giving us the peace that ‘surpasses all understanding’ (Phil. 4.7).

This means that peace can be present even in times of tension and disagreement.  In the gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that he will give them ‘a peace the world cannot give’.  Jesus understands that there will be turmoil ahead.  The cross awaits him, and the disciples will feel lost.  But for those who keep their hearts open to him, there will be a peace that can make itself felt even in times of turbulence.  In this sense, peace can be like an anchor.  On the water, the ship moves up and down in a heavy swell.  But it is securely anchored, and in that knowledge there is peace.

Sometimes disagreements are part of reaching peace.  To arrive at the truth sometimes needs that differences have to be aired, discussed, and worked through.  This can be an uncomfortable process, and we often prefer an easy life, avoiding the issues that divide or create tension.  But the first reading today from Acts 15 should make us think again.  It tells us that there has been strong disagreement within the first Christian communities about how much of the Jewish religious law they should observe.  Tempers have flared over this.  But notice the direction that they take.  They move from argument, to discussion, and then from
discussion to consensus,  and from consensus to compromise.

Let’s look at this in more detail.  As they quickly discovered at Antioch, argument is usually fruitless, because each party is insisting on its own way.  For the community to move ahead they had to discuss their differences in a more mutually respectful atmosphere.   This was helped by the fact that they brought these disagreements to God, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Finally, they came to a common mind based on a compromise.  In all this there was a deep concern for the unity of the community, and for the common good.  In the aftermath of the British election, this crisis within the early Church and its resolution offers us important lessons.  From argument to discussion; from discussion to consensus; and from consensus to compromise, in which essentials were safeguarded and the community stayed united and working together.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.  For more information see:

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