PEACE BE WITH YOU
Peace be with you
One sentence that we hear repeated so often in the Eastertide is, “Peace be with you.” Every time Jesus appears to his apostles he greets them, “Shalom aleichem!”
Earlier, in the course of his farewell address to his apostles before his passion and death, Jesus had told them not to let their hearts be troubled at his going away: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’; but he added ‘not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). Again, he says to them, “I have said this to you so that you may have peace” (Jn. 16:33). In the gospel text of today, he says yet again, “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36).
‘Peace’ is a word which features a lot in the Christian vocabulary. We use it so often especially during the Eucharistic celebration:
· In the Gloria: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth;
· In the prayers after Our Father: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day; followed by the prayer for peace: Grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom …; The peace of the Lord be with you always;
· We end the “Lamb of God” saying, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace”;
· And finally, in dismissing the congregation, the priest says, “Go in the peace of Christ”.
‘Peace’ forms part of other prayers and blessings too:
· An ancient Irish blessing says: Deep peace of the risen Christ to you!
· Our constant prayer for the dead is simply: May they rest in peace; and the tombstones of the earliest Christians were often inscribed with the words ‘In peace’.
‘Peace’ features so much in the prayers and the vocabulary of most world religions. It is so common even in secular conversations.
It would be interesting in the Eastertide to pay attention to this: how often do we hear this word throughout the day? As is the case with many of the words and phrases that we are most familiar with, it is quite possible for us to go on uttering this word ‘peace’, without ever pausing to reflect on what it actually means! Of course, the dictionary definition of peace is simple enough: “quiet; tranquility; mental calm; serenity; freedom from disturbance …” – but how exactly does this apply in the context of our faith in the Risen Christ?
1. “Peace be with you” is an invitation to the apostles to be calm. Do not be afraid! When Jesus was hanging on the cross it seemed that God was not in control of human history. This brought about a great fear among the disciples. But the resurrection of Jesus – which is also an experience of vindication of the just – clearly demonstrates to the apostles the fact that God is in Control. Be at peace! This is the first meaning of Jesus’ greeting even for us today.
There are moments in our own life when things seem to be going out of control. And we think God is absent! I often remember a poster that was in the dormitory of our boarding school: “Sleep in peace, my child; for God is awake.” Yes, we can be at peace in our lives because God is awake. This is the trust that the resurrection of Jesus offers us.
2. “Peace be with you” is also a blessing: Shaloam! Shaloam means wholeness, wellbeing. Jesus seems to say, I have conquered death, believe in me, and you will experience this same wellbeing. This is the second meaning of ‘Peace be with you!” The Easter narratives and the liturgy itself are full of symbols of life. During the Easter vigil two important symbols were used: water and fire. Water (of the rain) and Fire (of the Sun) sustain life on planet earth. The greeting of Shaloam then is an invitation from Jesus to participate in the fullness of life promised by Him. A promise of wellbeing!
3. “Peace be with you” is also a challenge: to live that peace! The gospel text of today ends with these words: “You are witnesses to this” (Lk 24:48). We are called to be witnesses of the peace that the Risen Lord brings. As Christians, our very presence in the world is to bring shalom to our neighborhood – our homes, our places of work, our schools, and in the streets! During the Eucharistic celebration when the priest invites us to “offer each other the sign of peace,” it is only symbolic of our call to share that peace with others. It might be easy to shake hands with the one who happens to be next to us during the mass, but as I do that, am I willing to share my peace with that person out there, whom I find so difficult to love?
Let this season of Easter and this Eucharistic celebration offer us a possibility of enjoying peace: to believe in God who is in control of our history; to participate in the life promised by the Lord; and to be a sign of peace in the world.
Fr. Franco Pereira, S.D.B.