Of Justice, Peace and Joy
”The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit,” St. Paul writes the Romans (Romans 14:17).
This particularly struck me this morning because in our day and age, this would be: The Kingdom of God is not a matter of projects, of followers, of accomplishments but of justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit. When St. Paul wrote this letter, he was chastising Christians for their misunderstanding of what it is to follow Jesus. The “matter of eating and drinking” here refers to how the early Church celebrated the Eucharist then. Back in their time they were really having a feast whenever they celebrate the Holy Mass, unlike our stripped down version today. Yet it is for this reason that the Church had to strip down the celebrations because Christians lost sense of what the Eucharist was all about.
Instead of focusing on the celebration of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist and how He brings people together in His meal and invite them to extend this grace outside the meal, many of the Christians got drunk and preoccupied with the good things at table. Instead of promoting justice, peace, and joy, they were too busy eating and drinking from the goodness of the table and forgot the Spirit of the meal.
The table of the Lord is a feast and we are meant to celebrate and enjoy it. However, the food at table and the wine in our cups are but the icing on the cake. What really matters in that meal is the relationship that the Lord has laid out for us in a meal, that He invites us to be closer to Him and in effect with one another. The Justice and Peace and Joy that comes from the Lord through His Spirit is meant to be given to us while we are eating and drinking from His plenty so that we can also be empowered to share it with others specially those in need.
Today, while we we don’t have the other food and drinks at table in the Eucharist, the Lord continues to offer us the icing. There is joy, pride, and fulfillment whenever we do His work. But these are just icing. St. Paul wants us to focus on what really matters. Too many religious and priests are full and drunk of themselves, promoting themselves on social media, counting friends and collecting likes, while all the while forgetting the justice, peace and joy that they are expected to produce and promote. Too many ordinary Catholics are too concerned with their image in the Church, of the complements they receive when they do good, and of the sense of righteousness that comes from following the rules without extending the joy of the Lord to the suffering, the needy and the depressed.
The Kingdom of God is more of promoting justice, peace and joy, St. Paul reminds us. While the Christian life is meant to be full of grace and joy that comes with the presence of the Lord, let us not just gorge on the food and drown in the wine at table. Let us focus on Jesus present before His family and friends and extend His familiarity and friendship with others in concrete and life-changing ways for the poor, destitute, and disadvantaged.