The WORD in Other Words by Fr Simon Boiser SVD (Germany)
6th Sunday Easter, Acts 15:1-2, 22-29, Rev 21:10-14, 22-23, John 14:23-29
Whenever I visit the 95-year-old German Frau Knickrehm in a home for old people, she always tells me about the stories and struggles of her life during the Second World War, how she and her Jewish family survived and how she found peace, when she lost her husband and children. With a serene countenance, she would say, “I have patience with everything that remains unsolved in my heart. I have learned to live with questions, not with answers.”
Whether she has regrets in life, she replied curtly, “Of course, like everyone else. But I have made peace with myself. The war against yourself is the hardest war to win. I did not say I won, I just stopped fighting.” Just like many old folks in the retirement house, Frau Knickrehm seemed to have found inner peace by having little and needing less, by not mourning about lost youth and fading active life, but by surrendering to God and humbly accepting the inevitable course of nature with a grateful attitude.
During my conversations with old people, I realize that we humans become reflective as we age, so that we can pass on what we have learned before we die. Frau Knickrehm told me, “Inner peace is a matter of mind and heart. Your mind can be your enemy or friend. If you always follow your heart, your mind will feel neglected. If you follow only your mind, your heart will never forgive you. If you make your heart and mind your friends, then you will have inner peace throughout the changing seasons of lite.”
This inner peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised. It is different from worldly peace, which is the absence of external conflict. The Holy Spirit‘s gift of deep and lasting inner peace makes us unafraid of the present and the future. Sin, fear, doubt, uncertainty and other forces are always at war within us and will always accompany us until death, but they should not dictate how we live a meaningful life.
The Holy Spirit does not magically erase these negative states, but transform them to teach us what is good, pure, holy, true and lasting in life. Peace comes from within, from the heart, where the Holy Spirit dwells. That is why we can never obtain peace externally unless we make peace with ourselves. Outer peace is just a reflection of inner peace.
Meister Eckhart, a German mystic, wrote, “Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. We must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” Let us be aware of God‘s gentle promptings thru inner solitude, whether alone or with others, at home or in a strange land. It allows us to experience inner peace given by the Holy Spirit.