Articles

The Peace That Passes All Understanding

Adapted from Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life, By Fr. Robert Spitzer

Our recent celebration of Pentecost reminds me of the essential role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Among the powerful blessings which the Holy Spirit imparts is peace. The Holy Spirit is the source of peace, love, protection, unity, inspiration, truth, and life.

Jesus told us He would send the Paraclete, Who would remind us of everything He said and would give us a wisdom that would confound our enemies. Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit will enable us to cry out, Abba, and will bestow the peace that passes all understanding. As we try to live out our lives as Catholics and Christians, we need to be aware of how our greatest advocate, consoler, protector, inspirer, transformer, and guide works in our lives and how we might be able to work in tandem with His wisdom and love.

The peace coming from the Holy Spirit is more than mere relief from suffering, a sense of well-being, or a sense of equanimity. It is rooted in a deep sense of home, home amid the cosmos (which we who have faith know is being at home with God). Its opposite is alienation, a sense of not being at home in or “being out of kilter with” the totality. The signature of the Holy Spirit is the sense of having a place in the totality, of “fitting in”, of being bathed in joy or light (even when one is aware of sadness and darkness), that is, of being in unity with the Creator and principle of all being.

As Catholics and Christians, we very likely view this “being at home in the totality”, this “freedom from being alone in the totality”, as “being part of the mystical body of Christ”. Being part of Christ’s mystical body through the Holy Spirit is an experience of home, holiness, unity, joy, and peace as seen through the eyes of thousands of saints who have embraced a life of holiness throughout history.

Have you ever had the experience of being immersed in a tragedy or a troubling or threatening series of events, and, in the midst of these troubles, experiencing a deep sense of calm and assurance that everything is going to be all right?

When I was younger I had such experiences of the peace that passes all understanding, but I actually tried to talk myself out of them. I remember hearing the news of my father’s death, and having this deep and abiding peace and sense that everything was going to be fine. I thought to myself, “I should not be feeling this; this is really tragic; my father was only fifty-nine years old; and furthermore, my mother is probably frantic; and furthermore, my sister is not finished with college; and furthermore…”

The more the Holy Spirit attempted to intervene with peace, the more I guilted myself out of it. I later came to find, through multiple experiences of this “peace in the midst of troubles”, that the Spirit was genuinely present, working within my life and the lives of people around me to bring good out of what seemed so negative. My advice is to take the peace and follow the lead of the Spirit, Who assures us that everything is going to be all right. Doing this will give the Holy Spirit room to maneuver through your free will to bring about optimal goodness and love for you, others, the community, and the kingdom of God.

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