“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
Last weekend I was in the Washington, DC area for a wedding, and I spent my first night there on the campus of Catholic University. The next morning I had to drive to southern Virginia for the actual wedding, but before leaving I wanted to pay a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception that was a block away from the dorm I stayed at. I walked into this beautiful church to pray to the patroness of our parish, but half the sanctuary was blocked off for renovations. As if guided by the very hand of God, I gravitated to a side chapel with a beautiful image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the patroness of Poland: the very same chapel that St. John Paul II had prayed in years before. I thought to myself, “If it’s good enough for a pope and saint then it’s good enough for me.” There was no one in the chapel. I lit a candle for the couple I was about to marry and for the intentions of my parishioners, and then I moved to the kneeler at the base of the altar and knelt before Our Lady. I must confess that as soon as I feel to my knees, every problem, every worry, every bit of stress, any cross that I had been carrying simply disappeared. I felt as if I was an infant being held and consoled by my mother, except this time it was the Mother of God. So many problems and worries I had been carrying, so much stress and worries about things to come, but in that beautiful moment, they were all gone. It was just Mary and I praying to her Son together: a moment of absolute peace.
Peace is at the heart of today’s gospel because Jesus wants us to experience divine peace. It is so elusive, so difficult to keep, yet we yearn for it, search for it, and hunger and thirst for it. Yes I had to travel to our nation’s capital to find this peace and be reminded that in my prayer life, I have to break out of monotony and routine especially when it comes to the spiritual life. A friend of mine posted a beautiful quote last week that said: “Make it a routine to break the monotony.” This is a variation of something a spiritual director once told me: “Beware of routine in the spiritual life.” So we need to find those moments, those places, and yes, even those people that bring us peace.
I was telling this story of my experience in the Basilica to a brother priest this week, and he reminded me of the importance of us talking to Mary in our prayer life. Beyond the rosary and devotions, this past week since returning, I have found great peace kneeling before the image of the Immaculate Conception to the left of our main altar as I have kneeling before the tabernacle. Today we begin the month of Mary and we are called to rekindle this friendship we have with our Blessed Mother who is the Queen of Peace. And when we find that peace that Jesus and his Mother are offering, we are called to share it, to plant it, to sow it and to hold on to it. Jesus reminds us in the gospel that we will not find this peace out in the world. However, we will find it here in his house dedicated to his Mother where we come to worship every Sunday, where we come to find that peace that we may have lost during the week, where we come to feel that divine embrace that reminds us that we are loved, forgiven, protected, and saved. “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.”