After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to the disciples, and he said, “Peace be with you.” St. John, in his account of that appearance told us that Jesus twice said, “Peace be with you.”
Since Jesus has conquered death, what more do we have to worry about? We should be at peace.
In 1618 the Carmelite Order published our church’s finest book on leading the Christian life to its fullest. It was St. John of the Cross’s Ascent of Mount Carmel. In it St. John pictured the attainment of heaven on earth as climbing to the peak of Mt. Carmel where for thousands of years saints have sought God in solitude.
The first chapter in that book by John of the Cross was about our need for peace beyond all else. That chapter goes on to tell us how we can attain peace. Its message was simplicity itself. John of the Cross wrote that frustration comes from not getting what we wish for, so we can be free from frustrations by not wishing for anything.
Sixty-five years ago when I read The Ascent of Mount Carmel I tried out its theory. I nipped all my wishes in the bud. I wouldn’t let myself wish for easy exam questions, or for pitches I could hit, or for sunny days, or for creamed corn for dinner. It worked, and I began experiencing extra happiness with whatever just came along. I got good grades.
I only stayed that way for a short time, but I came to see that peace came from not wanting.
The notion of exhausting ourselves wanting things has me recalling a neighbor of a friend of ours in St. Augustine. The lady invited me down to her apartment to see her fine china. I went down, and I was amazed at the table, cabinet, and floor space loaded with the finest china from Japan, Holland, and France. Those stacks of dishes left not even a few feet of clear space not loaded with table settings.
The lady showed me her finest Noritake from Japan, her Limoges Haviland from France, but she said she would never have true peace of mind until she got her hands on a discontinued pattern of Irish Belleek.
I was hoping she wouldn’t get those pieces. I suspected that she would feel terribly empty after acquiring them. I knew she would feel cheated. She would be left asking, “Is that all there is? Oh, what a fool I have been!”