Once there were two monks, one old and one young, who were traveling on a pilgrimage. While on their journey, they came to a river. There they saw a beautiful woman who was just standing by the side of the river. She was dressed in a beautiful gown and her long hair hung gracefully over her shoulders. She told the monks that she wanted to cross the river but the river was high and she did not want to ruin her clothes. Without saying a word, the older monk picked her up in his arms and carried her across the river. She smiled at him and held on by putting her arms around his neck. Once they were safely across, the monk put her down gently. She smiled and thanked him. He bowed, turned and continued on his journey.
The two monks walked in silence till they were near their destination, at which time the younger monk said, “Surely it is not right to touch a woman; it is against our commandments to have close contact with women. How could you go against the rules for monks? You carried a beautiful woman in your arms.” The older monk looked at him and said, “I set her down by the river. Why are you still carrying her?”
That is an old story that has been repeated many times, but I like this story because, for me, it demonstrates the importance of living in the present. We all have a past. But that history, be it good or bad, has effectively been a school, filled with lessons, that has brought each of us to who and where we are today. And we all have plans, hopes and fears for the future. But our past experiences, or concerns for the future, can frequently cast shadows over our ability to appreciate the present.
Our second reading for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time contains only five verses, yet the word “peace” appears four times there. “He is our peace. — He established peace. — He came preaching peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:13-18) In fact, the word peace appears a total of four hundred and twenty nine times in Sacred Scripture. Obviously our God intends His children to be at peace in this life. Peace is defined as “An undisturbed state of mind; absence of mental conflict; peace of mind; calm; quiet; tranquility.” (Webster’s Dictionary)
With that understanding of what the word peace means, we need to recognize the fact that yesterday’s demons and tomorrow’s concerns can rob us of the peace and love that our Heavenly Father desires for each and every one of His children today.
Remember, our time here on earth is limited. And every second of the time we’ve been given is a precious gift from God. In our reading from Ephesians this weekend, Paul tells us that Jesus came preaching peace. We need to learn to live every moment of our life in peace, giving every one of those moments our full attention, do our best in all things and trust God to do the rest, knowing that He is always in control.