MY PEACE, I GIVE YOU!
Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Rev 21:10-14,22-23; Jn 14:23-29
In today’s Gospel (Jn. 14, 23-24), we are told that the Lord, before ascending into heaven, gave his disciples the Holy Spirit, and peace which the world cannot give or take away. The gospel text stresses the central theme of love. God is love. If we love God, we will do what he tells us to do. If we do what he tells us to do, God will make his home in us; all Three Persons of the Trinity. Love is what brings heaven down to earth. Peace is what flows from love, when our relationships are the way they ought to be. The lack of love, therefore, spells the absence of peace.
- THE SUBJECT OF PEACE WAS VERY DEAR TO JESUS’ HEART
Peace was one thing that must have been dear to the heart of Jesus because time and time again, he wished peace for his followers. He did so before his passion, as we read in our Gospel today. He did the same in the evening of the very day he rose from the dead (Jn 20:20-21). When he sent out the 72 disciples, Jesus instructed them thus:
- (Lk 10:5) “whatever house you enter, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house’” One of the Beatitude pronounced by Jesus was
- (Mtt 5:9) “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
- (Mtt 10:13) “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you”.
- Paul takes this up: (1Thes 1:2, 1 Thes 3:16, 2Tim 1:2) The greetings and benedictions of Paul to the churches always begins with “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
- In his last discourse with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus said a couple of powerful things, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”.
- THE MEANING OF PEACE
The world in which we live suggests to us that to know peace we must either: go someplace (head off to some luxury island), buy something (an expensive car which shuts out the harshness of the world), or ingest something (get a prescription for a sedative), eat or drink something pleasant (‘Good food’). But the peace that Jesus offers is different from the world’s peace. The world’s peace is temporary and external. The peace we crave, and Jesus offers, is more than that. It is something that only Jesus can give. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that it is HIS peace that he gives to us. He alone has the authority to extend this peace. It is unique to Him.
Christ’s peace adds something to life rather than subtracts something. We are used to thinking of peace as the absence of conflict, or the absence of stress, or the absence of worry. The peace that Jesus talks about is the Jewish concept of peace or “Shalom”.
In the Hebrew Bible the word for peace is “Shalom.” Shalom is one of the richest words in the Bible. The core meaning is to be whole and complete. It is like saying to someone: “may you be well.” Peace refers to something deep and personal. It is a state of being “whole, complete, to have physical and spiritual resources sufficient for your needs.” In other words, peace, in the Biblical sense is a sense of wholeness or completeness. It is like a calm in our soul even when the circumstances of life are chaotic. It is a feeling of being in harmony with God and with your fellowman. It is means contentment. It is what every one of us is striving for in our lives. The essential component in this completeness is finding a right relationship with God.
A typical example of biblical peace can be found in the formula of blessing God’s people as dictated by God himself to Moses: (Num 6:24-25)
“May Yahweh bless you and keep you.
May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace.”
One cannot imagine anyone in this church today who does not need and desire God’s “Shalom” in his/her life!
- JESUS IS THE EMBODIMENT OF PEACE
Before his birth, the Prophet Isaiah foretells that Jesus would be the embodiment of peace: “There is a Child born for us, a Son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give Him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace” (Isaiah 9:5).
When, finally, he was born, Saint Luke also tells us that “suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:13). Jesus is indeed the Prince-of-Peace. For, as St. Paul tells us: “Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law” (Ephesians 2:13-14). Only Jesus can give us genuine peace, that peace which every human being ardently longs for.
- PEACE IN OUR DAILY EXPERIENCES
As we can see above, the biblical definition of peace is much more than just the absence of conflict. The kind of peace the Bible talks about is all-encompassing. It means that we are at peace with God, at peace with others, and even at peace within ourselves.
- a) PEACE WITH GOD: In order to have peace with God, we need to recognize our place before Him. We need to admit to our sin and stop making excuses for it. It is only once we have done that that we can experience the peace that comes from the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ.
- b) PEACE WITHIN OURSELVES: Peace within ourselves is a natural byproduct of submitting to God. Have you ever noticed that the times when you feel closest to the Lord also tend to be the times when you have the greatest peace? The worries of life seem to slip away, and you can just rest in Him. Conversely, when we live in open rebellion to God, we are robbed of the peace He intends for us. When we know what God wants from us, but we don’t do it, we begin to distance ourselves from Him. So the best way to have peace within ourselves is to tend to our relationship with God. Stay close to Him, follow His commands, deal with the sins he wants you to change, and you will find that you have a peace that isn’t affected by the things of this life. You will be able to rest in Him.
- c) PEACE WITH OTHER PERSONS: Paul urges us: “As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). Peace with others doesn’t only depend on us—which in some ways makes it harder. It requires us to work with the people around us to bring peace in our relationships. It is hard work, but it is something we need to do.
Paul tells us that it will not always be possible to be at peace with everyone. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, another person will refuse to make peace…but we should never be the reason there is not peace. Jesus told us that the peacemakers would be blessed (Matthew 5:9); so we should be people who make peace with those around us. Making peace is an active endeavor; peace with others doesn’t just happen on its own. So how do we pursue peace? Every human being has to contribute to the building of peace. Each one has to be not only a peace-lover, but also a peace-maker. Peace is a common good of great value.
All throughout the New Testament we see barriers lift between people: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. We are continually urged to maintain peace with others. i) First we understand that we are all in the same boat. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot overcome circumstances by our strength alone. We are all in need of grace and mercy. ii) Secondly, we belong to the same family. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. It is imperative that we work out our differences. iii) Thirdly, we are heading to the same goal. Each of us in the family of God is moving toward Heaven. We are not competing with each other; we are working with each other. These realizations alone should change the way we relate to one another.
- PEACE IN THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
- a) The first encyclical, entirely devoted to the theme of Peace, is Pacem, Dei munus pulcherrimum (peace, the beautiful task of God) published in 1920 by Benedict XV, “the Pope of the First World War”. That encyclical expresses more systematically the condemnation of war as “senseless slaughter” in the Pope’s Peace Note of 1917.
- b) Then, we have John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, of 1963. He defines Peace as the Dignity of the person and of peoples. He further indicated the elements of peace to be built on the four pillars of truth, justice, love, and freedom.
- c) In 1967, Paul VI, published the encyclical Populorum Progressio, in which he defined peace in terms of development, declaring “the development of peoples as the new the name of peace”.
- d) Then, in 1987, on the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II published the encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, which gave an overview of the teaching of his predecessors and proposed “solidarity among peoples” as the new name of peace. In his Message for World Day of Peace, Pope John Paul II 1 January 2000, said: “There is no true peace without fairness, truth, justice and solidarity. Failure awaits every plan which would separate two indivisible and interdependent rights: the right to peace and the right to an integral development born of solidarity. Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war.” Peace goes with JUSTICE. There can be no true peace without justice. (e.g. the appellation: ‘Justice and Peace Commission’)
- e) Finally, Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in veritate: For him, it is human development, whole and entire, which is the new name of peace. Thus peace is inconceivable without the integral – cultural, moral and spiritual – development of all human beings. The construction of peace implies and does require the protection of creation, the theme chosen by the Holy Father for his Message on the World Day of Peace in 2010. He wrote: “Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not only because ‘creation is the beginning and foundation of God’s works’, and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development – wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism and violation of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from neglect — if not downright misuse – of the earth…. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen ‘that covenant between human beings and the environment.'”.
Peace is not a static state which is reached once for all. In other words, peace is never stable. It is not an immobile tranquility. Peace has to be continually built up. It is a difficult conquest. It is always threatened by the instability of our human condition. Men continually change. With the human being many new situations keep arising because we are free beings. In order to maintain peace, every situation has to be taken care of in its own right.
CONCLUSION: In order to get TRUE peace, we must turn to the source of peace. This peace is not found in Meditation, Drugs, Achievements. Neither is it found in vengeance, conflict or war. The peace we yearn for is something that can only be found in Christ. What we need is not SOMETHING it is SOMEONE. He is the one who can put our hungry souls at rest.
People spend a lot of time trying to find a peace that can only come from Christ. This is so because the peace of the world is anchored to circumstances. Some people feel peace when everything is going well. If they are healthy, able to pay their bills, and all their relationships are good and stable. However, when something messes with those things, when a relationship ends, disease strikes, a job is lost, the market crashes, a loved one dies, or a natural disaster takes away everything we own, that peace evaporates. The peace that Jesus gives remains even when life stinks. Let us heed the call of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Mtt 11:28-30).