There was an old saying about horses. It went like this. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make the horse drink.” I got to be thinking about that when I was meditating over the reading from Revelation this week. (Revelation 22:12ff)
There are those whose hearts and souls are such that they are waiting, with eager longing, for the opportunity to meet Jesus. Those who are thirsty for the spring of living water are invited by the Lamb to come and drink deeply. But like the horse, who you can lead to water but you can’t make the horse drink, you can lead a person to the fountain of living water, but you cannot make that person drink. Like the horse that does not realize it is thirsty, the soul that does not realize it is thirsty is not apt to drink.
Like the horse that is incapable of realizing it is about to undertake a long, arduous journey through a hot, dry, dusty desert, so, too, a person may be led to the source of living water and not recognize his thirst/her thirst. Not realizing the importance of tanking up for the journey, the soul might not utilize the opportunity to drink deeply from the spring of salvation when it is presented, and then find itself rather aridly dry in the moment of need.
Learning to practice the peace of God which passes all understanding is is very much like that: If we wait for the moment of crisis, and then demand of ourselves that we practice interior peace, it is likely that we will never achieve it.
Interior peace is a gift from God, but it is also a habit. Like all good habits, it is one that can be cultivated. The cultivation of interior peace does not happen by magic. It is a thing that we have to work at. It is also a thing that we need very greatly in our present, highly reactive culture.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was trying to explain this concept at the Saturday night Mass for the benefit of our Sunday School children, I used The Three Stooges as an example of reactive behavior. I have to say that they had no idea what I was talking about; none of them had ever seen the antics of Moe, Larry, and Curley. After all, they are cultural icons of the mechanical era, not the digital!
To find them humorous, one has to know something about a real hammer and chisel, not a virtual hammer and chisel. But most of us know what happens…. in the course of attempting to solve a problem or to fix something, Moe becomes injured. He’s entitled to retaliate. But he hits the wrong Stooge, so there is a chain reaction of reactivity. It is funny when you are watching it from a bygone era, in the television’s blurry, flickering images. It is not so funny in real life, where weapons and serious injuries are involved!
As a culture, we need to become less reactive, less driven by height. One the way in which we do that is by coming to the spring of living water. And drinking deeply from the spring of living water. So that we may develop and learn the practice of interior peace.
We have two examples of the practice of interior peace in the lessons this morning. In the first, the Acts of the Apostles,(Acts: 16:16f) Paul and Silas are imprisoned. But they don’t spend their time in a panic. They don’t spend their time, as did a certain defendant in a recent, nationally-televised trial, trying to devise a story with an aura of plausibility that might serve to exculpate her. No– Paul and Silas spend the time singing hymns and praising God. They spend time in prayer. Given the opportunity to run away, they remain.
All this stems from the practice of interior peace. The jailer wants to know why they have remained, and how they could have chosen to do so. And their witness of interior peace is so compelling that the jailer and his entire household were baptized.
When we get to the Gospel today, the rather difficult to understand high priestly prayer of Jesus which is in John 17 ( John 17:20-26), we have a presentation on the importance of interior peace. For, although the words “interior peace” are never mentioned there, interior peace frames the entire tone of the prayer. On the eve of his betrayal, crucifixion, and death– knowing all that will be involved– he is is able to pray for the unity and protection of his disciples.
The only way that can happen is because his very spirit and soul are infused with the sense of interior piece. That interior piece of Jesus which is reflected in that prayer comes from the sense of the way in which he and the father are one. It flows from a deep awareness on our Lord’s part that the glorification of God will be shown in spite of, or because of, the passion and suffering he will soon undergo.
And so, amid the changes and chances of this life, we are reminded of the importance of practicing something that is so difficult for all of us to get right–the peace of God, which passes all understanding.