At the end of the Second Letter of Peter (which we hear from this Sunday) we have these words: “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.” “Peace” – it is at the deepest yearning of the human heart and whether one has a purely secular approach to the holidays or a religious one; the yearning for peace in our world and even in our own lives seems to unite all. One of the titles of Christ which we proclaim throughout this Advent and Christmas season is “Prince of Peace.”
Worthy of note is the fact that this call to peace found within the Second Letter of Peter is placed within the upheaval of the end of creation, “…the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be destroyed by fire … Therefore, beloved … be … at peace.” This sounds like the most extreme of contradictions. How can one be at peace when all is going up in smoke? In fact though there is a subtle lesson to be found here. Even within the upheaval at the end time and therefore within the upheavals of the present moment of our world and of our lives it is possible to find peace and to remain within peace.
We are given these words, “…since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him …” In his Exposition on Psalm 85, St. Augustine offers some thoughts on the common Advent refrain: “Truth has sprung up from the earth, and righteousness has looked down from heaven.” Augustine reflects that in sin we are the “earth.” The wages of sin is death and he points us back to the passage from Genesis: “Earth you are, and back to earth you shall go.” (Gen. 3:19) How might truth spring from the earth?
“Confess your sins, and truth will spring up from you. If you claim to be just when you are unjust, how can truth spring up from you? But if when you are unjust you admit to being unjust, ‘truth has sprung up from the earth.’” At this the righteousness of God will look down from heaven and say, “Let us pardon this person, because he has not pardoned himself; let us overlook his sin because he has looked honestly at it himself. He has turned back to punish his own sin, so I will turn to him to set him free from it.”
It is not coincidence that at the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy we have the Penitential Rite nor that the Church continually invites us to the great gift which is the sacrament of reconciliation. The words of the first option of the Penitential Rite found in the new Roman Missal are quite striking:
“I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
We say these words not because we hate ourselves and deem ourselves incapable of being loved. In fact we know that the exact opposite is the case – we have been loved infinitely. We say these words and we go to the sacrament of reconciliation in order that truth might spring from the earth and righteousness look down from heaven.
Even within the upheavals of life peace is possible.
“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”