In April, we had the pleasure of hosting Bishop Paride Taban, the retired bishop of Torit in South Sudan. Bishop Taban shared about his lifelong struggle for peace in his homeland ravaged by civil war for most of his life.
His years of ministry included imprisonment, churches destroyed, living in hiding and facing constant threats to his life. And, yet, despite this tragic existence, he continued to speak of the peace of Christ and how he lived grounded in that peace while the world around him was at war.
Ultimately, his efforts helped to bring about a political peace treaty, signed in 2004, and the eventual creation of South Sudan, the newest country in the world.
In retirement, Bishop Taban continues to live and work for a deeper peace in Sudan as he joins in the ongoing reconciliation efforts and the building of the Kuron Peace Village, which tries to create a sanctuary for people of many tribal groups to learn how to live in peace together.
From death to life
It strikes me now that this is an Easter story. It is a resurrection story of Christ’s life transforming death.
The peace of Christ that inspired and sustained Bishop Taban is the same peace that Jesus offered his disciples as a parting gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
It was this peace that guided and sustained the young and persecuted Christian community of the early Church. And, it is this same peace of Christ that is available to each of us, especially during times of loss and turmoil.
We face turmoil and loss in our own day. A sudden loss of health can make us vulnerable. Recent events like the Boston Marathon bombing or the explosion in West, Texas can rob our sense of security. We hear of the terrible collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing hundreds, and wonder about the inhuman working conditions.
Civil war continues in Syria and the threat of attack continues. After the recent school shootings, many worry about our school safety and what to do about gun violence.
While we must do what we can to address the causes of violence, poor working conditions, disease and conflict, we cannot avoid the reality that everything passes away.
Jesus addressed this question very directly in his final days on earth with the disciples. He told them ahead of time that he was leaving them and that the world as they knew it was passing away. The peace of Christ is not the absence of conflict but rather the promise of his enduring presence, raised from the dead and always available to them in times of light and darkness.
Living in the peace of Christ can become a stance in the world. It is a peace that can help us to live in this world and to face the troubling, fearful and disturbing events that come our way. It is this peace of Christ that we wish each other at every Eucharist.
Living the resurrection
In one of his Christmas letters, Bishop Taban described this peace as living the resurrection: “My life is a growing process. I can grow in every situation. Nobody on earth can block my growth, only I can become an obstacle to my growth. Religion and culture can enrich me, but the only perfect self I can obtain is the experience of the cross of Jesus Christ. . . . Therefore, I must realize that it is when things are desperate that I can expect redemption. . . . May I bring the good news of resurrection to my brothers and sisters.”
The peace of Christ is available to us. The Holy Spirit, given at Pentecost, is a spirit of Christ’s peace. In the midst of our own troubles and fears, we can live in that peace which is beyond all understanding.
Yes, the world is passing away, but in the spirit of Christ, we can echo his words, “I have overcome the world.”
May the peace of Christ be with you always.
Deacon Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.
Category: Sharing Faith