During this Advent, my children and I dedicate time each day to reflectively read Scripture to hear in a new way Christ’s love for us. The Bible is truly the life-giving Word of God speaking to our hearts exactly what we need to hear and then inviting us to reflect on it personally for ourselves.
As my head was swarming with Advent reflection and cooking of recipes for the holidays, I sat down to think about how God wanted me to bring across the message of peace in a time that seems to be demanding too much to even find a moment of peace let alone to produce a heart bursting with it.
In my prayerful preparation, I came across one of my favorite Scripture passages. It has always spoken volumes to my heart when I am struggling to feel the peace of Christ.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:6-9
I was awed that God inspired me to see this Scripture passage in a whole new way. This encouraging passage gives us clear instructions on an important recipe for this 2nd week of Advent whose theme is PEACE!
- Start with a heart full of rejoicing in the Lord always. Rejoice that God loves you no matter what. Rejoice that He comes to save you- yes, I mean YOU! Let that thought sink deep and fill a place of emptiness or doubt in your heart.
- Load your heart with thoughts and ways to demonstrate kindness as wide as you can each day, so it is known to all. By allowing the knowledge of God’s love for you to sink deep, you cannot help but share that love in a multitude of kind ways. Kindness is an approachable way of showing love to others: share a smile, hold a door open for someone, offer help when you don’t need to, express a word of encouragement or in so many other ways.
- Keep the recipe from going flat by adding an essential ingredient of awareness that the Lord is near. As your heart is reaching out with God’s love, you begin to see God’s presence all around. You see God in each other. You feel God more as you share it. You cannot help but know with greater certainty that God is near and among His people every moment.
- Heap in without ceasing prayer, petition, and thanksgiving to God so that your hearts are not anxious at all but rather feel secured by the warming embrace of God. Knowing that God is near makes your heart speak more often to Him about your day both in its difficulties and in its blessings that you are so grateful for. You speak to Him as a dear friend sitting across the room from you sharing a cup of warm apple cider (or coffee if you prefer.) You know that He hears you sharing from your heart and helps you to discover how to find a deeper peace than before.
- Remember that you are building a recipe for the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding. This means that you cannot make it on your own or with your own goodness. This recipe calls for the Chief Chef to bring His cooking graces and expertise to accomplish the authentic recipe.
- By allowing Christ to be the true baker of this recipe, He will guard your hearts and mind and keep you from being a recipe not worthy of enjoying the ultimate compliment- a place at the Heavenly banquet.
- As we cook up this important recipe, an essential part of success is having the right tools for reflection on what really matters- whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. Why would you pick a recipe that is filled with negative reviews or ingredients you did not have? Allow your hearts to remember ALL the moments throughout your life that God presents beautiful things for your eyes and heart to embrace. If you only focus on the negative and painful parts of your experiences, you miss His faithful touch and guiding hand getting you through the tough spots.
- Each time you encounter an obstacle, such as missing one of the above critical ingredients, remember with your whole being what you have learned, received, heard, and seen about God’s peace in your own personal relationship with Jesus.
- Before, during and after this recipe, you must believe with your whole heart that the God of peace will be with you. You are never alone. God is there always with you and because of that you can find true peace.
This is the peace that survives all the pains, challenges, joys, and demands of our life here on this Earth. Together we lift our hearts asking Jesus to guide us through each day to maintain not a worldly peace that is often more like contentment, but a peace that can see peace and glory in the His Cross and in our own crosses. May the Prince of Peace lead our hearts each day closer to everlasting peace.
What ONE ingredient of this recipe can you focus on this week to invite more peace to reside deeper into your heart?
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Sacrament Preparation Catechist