Summertime, the grass grew tall down the long back garden at home where my mother would spread out the newly washed white bedsheets to dry, sheets that were often made of flour bags sewn together. The days seemed sunnier then and, as a boy, I would crawl in under a sheet and it would become a tent in which I lay looking upwards at the white brightness that shielded my eyes from the sun. It was a happy, peaceful place to be.
In our neighbouring church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, they celebrated the Forty Hours Adoration during the week and I went there for a short while on Wednesday evening. A beautiful peaceful time that brought me back to the same devotion when I was a boy. It seems to me like the Tent of Meeting of the Old Testament – the place where Moses went to meet God face to face and we meet Him now in Jesus in the Eucharist. It is here that the veil between heaven and earth is thin.
And there in St. Thomas’ I found myself praying Psalm 27, “There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple. For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil. He hides me in the shelter of his tent.” The shelter of His tent, a happy, peaceful place to be!
Peace is the gift that Jesus speaks about today, “Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give to you, a peace that the world cannot give, this is my gift to you!” Peace comes to us in surprising ways and it often happens when we find ourselves troubled and in need of its arrival.
Last Sunday after I had finished the 11.30 Mass and everyone had gone home, I found myself walking down High Street with a young couple and their three-year-old son. Out of the blue I felt this soft little hand taking hold of mine and the little boy simply spoke my name. The stress that I was feeling and the sadness that was upon me dissolved for a while in that simple touch. I hadn’t heard this but the boy had said to his Dad that he needed to hold my hand. There was no need for me to say anything. Peace had taken hold of my hand, my life.
Peace descends upon us like a tent, like the warmth of the sun, the coolness of clear water; it descends upon us when we allow God to take hold of our lives, when we are in harmony with Him, available to His touch. Peace flowing like a river. Peace flowing from the hand of a child into the heart of a man.
There is a sense of completion that comes with Peace, when things are as they are meant to be. On Tuesday my great-nephew Cole was born. My sister was telling me that the baby’s Dad has been changed by the experience, has a look in him that wasn’t there before. The child’s Mother says it’s a look of completeness, that her husband has somehow arrived, arrived in the place where he truly belongs. I think it’s the second stage of his arrival at completeness. He had already arrived at the first stage of completeness when he married his wife. Back then on the day of their wedding I told them that, by binging their relationship before God in the Church, they were taking it to a higher level. In the birth of their son they have both arrived together at an even higher level of human existence.