Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. John 14:27
What is peace?
For most people, the definition of peace would be the freedom from any disturbance; to have quiet; to be in a state of tranquility; to have an end to violence of any state. While that definition is admirable, it falls far short of the peace that Christ speaks about. From the time Cain murdered Abel, the world has sought out the gift of peace as it is defined above. We are still waiting, and if we never get beyond that line of thinking, we will always be waiting.
The cultures of the world in which we live today are ones that will be known as some of the most violent in our history, and has become so void of peace, that it makes us wonder if peace is even possible; so much so, that it is even hard to hold on to the hope of peace. So why do we hang on to the hope of peace? I believe that it is because throughout the history of mankind, unlike ourselves, God has never given up on us. And peace has always been God’s greatest gift to mankind.
Through peace, we know the unconditional love of God. Peace and love go hand in hand. No love, no peace. Know love, know peace. The peace that God gives to us comes in the person of Jesus Christ. This peace was announced by the choirs of angels at His birth as they sang out: “Peace to people of goodwill.”
As Jesus grew in stature and wisdom, He most certainly knew that His mission from His heavenly Father was to make known to all people that, God’s will for us, is to be a people who not only have peace, understand what true peace is, but also live within the spirit of that peace. When Jesus promised us His gift of peace, it was His desire to help us understand peace in a completely different way. Since Jesus was Jewish, His word for peace would have been shalom. For Jesus, the peace He spoke of would become defined as a time when every single person would have everything they needed for a full life. Not just a physical life, but a spiritual life as well.
Peace is not just an individual gift; it is a communal gift as well. For that reason, if we are to live in peace, then each and every one of us has the responsibility to work as hard as we can to ensure that everyone has what they need to be the person God created them to be. That’s what we promise to each other during Mass at the exchange of the sign of peace. It’s so much more than just flashing “the peace sign” of the sixties.
“This is not peace as the world gives peace,” Jesus says. When we offer a sign of peace, we are letting each other know that we are committed to them. It’s a promise that we will do everything we can possibly do to help each other obtain what they need to live a full life in the peace of Christ. It’s our way of letting others know how much we love them.
The peace that Jesus gives us demands a vibrant and loving care for every single living person. Otherwise, we will never be capable of living in peace. It’s that understanding that has allowed others to share their words that echo the same words as Jesus:
“It is possible to live in peace.” Mahatma Gandhi.
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
“There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” A.J. Muste
“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” Peace Pilgrim
When we become “people of goodwill”, we will truly know the peace of Christ. We will have the understanding that peace flows from a God who unconditionally loves us. No vessel can ever contain the peace of Christ. Just as Christ poured out His peace upon us, so we are called to do the same. We will only know peace when we become, as St. Francis said, “Instruments of His peace.”