“My thoughts are thoughts of peace”. Holy Mother Church puts these words on our lips and repeats them over and over again as we reach the end of the liturgical year. Salvation begins with the peace which the angels sang over Bethlehem, and it ends with the eternal reign of the Prince of Peace.
The thoughts of the wicked, on the other hand, are ever of trouble and turmoil. “Worried, they toss like the sea which cannot rest” (Jer 49:23). They know not the secret of peace which the prophet Isaiah revealed: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies” (Is 30:15).
The worst thing about the wicked is that not only do they have no rest, but they allow no rest to others. In today’s Gospel, it is in the peace of night, while the just enjoy God’s rest, that the enemy, who knows not sleep or rest, sows his evil seed in the Church of God. Evil is contagious, it seeks to infect all, it cannot tolerate to see souls enjoying the good things of God, it must upset and unsettle all those who seek to serve the Lord.
And so it is in every age. So it is today. False doctrines which corrupt lives and end by precipitating into the roaring waves of a filthy chaos are sown amongst God-fearing Christians. We think we have arrived at a certain level of peace, and lo and behold, we awake to find that what we had worked so hard for is compromised. Like the servants in today’s Gospel, we would instinctively reach to pull out the weeds, to eliminate all the evildoers, to establish a Church of the pure only, of which, of course, we would be part.
But today, as yesterday, the Lord holds us back, for He is merciful. He wants to give the wicked time to repent, and He wants to make use of them to increase the merits of the just. We must wait patiently for the time of the harvest, that is, the end of the world, when all justice will be fulfilled, when good deeds will be rewarded and evil ones punished, when the just will be removed from the midst of the wicked by the Angels and placed in the heavenly granary, in which there is never any want or need, while the evil-doers are sent to burn forever in a fire that is never extinguished. It’s all about letting God do justice, and not seeking to substitute ours for His.
St Paul gives us a rule of conduct which is appropriate in every age: “Put on… heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do”. The evil seek to harm, the just always seek to help, to “help all men” as St Ignatius has Our Lord say in the meditation on the Two Standards. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:12-17). “Man is created to praise”, says St Ignatius. As monks, we are privileged to do just that eight times a day, and by so doing we are working for the salvation of souls, even of those who at the moment are God’s enemies, but who may become His friends.
So let us not give up or grow weary. The grace of God can change everything, and that grace is made manifest in a life surrendered to love of God and love of neighbour. “Above all things put on love, that is, the bond of perfection… And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.”