May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the Blood of the eternal covenant, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will.
The Letter to the Hebrews finishes with a reassurance of peace. On this Saturday in Ordinary Time, the Church receives that blessing with Psalm 23. We pray with our ancestors of four thousand years, "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."
Every Christian experiences grief, guilt and uncertainly; most of us suffer distress and anxiety. There is nothing unusual or wrong about those very natural, very human responses. But the Gospel assures us that we may enjoy peace. It is God's gift to his chosen ones.
The Spirit of the Lord sometimes abandons us. Sometimes we are guilty of sin or have attached ourselves to a sinful course of action and the Spirit of God will not let us rest with it. Clinging stubbornly to our preferences we may suffer through long periods of grim determination to do it my way. Only when we finally relent of that foolish course of action does God's peace return to us.
Sometimes, as the saints tell us, the Lord simply withdraws his consoling spirit to let us feel our helplessness without him. If I have ever prayed, "Okay, Lord, I can take it from here!" I soon discovered how foolish that was. Why would I want to go it alone? But I have, and I learned from it.
In either case we have sometimes not known the peace that is normal for Christian life, especially because the Lord gives us that two-side coin freedom/anxiety. Faith alleviates anxiety, making it bearable, but it does not dissolve it totally.
Historically, we have to admit, there have been periods when some Christian shepherds tormented us with exaggerated depictions of God's wrath and our guilt. We were warned not to presume on God's benevolence. "God owes you nothing!" we were told.
That's true, but it's a poor starting point for any religion. The Gospel greets us with Gabriel's word to Mary, "Do not be afraid. You have found favor with the Lord."
We live in that. We move freely within that space, and show that same benevolence to our neighbors, friends, and enemies.