On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:19-21)
The peace that Jesus twice imparted to the disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week” is the same peace that is exchanged during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every time it is celebrated. Far from the peace that the world offers, the peace of Christ proceeds from perfect charity and is accompanied by the joy and mercy that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rather than a static concept involving the absence of conflict and war, the peace that is offered, received and exchanged at Mass proceeds from and through divine charity. Human charity, in turn, is shared in the sign of peace. This sign during liturgy can be expressed with a smile, nod, bow, handshake, hug, and even a kiss! (Prayerful discretion is advised on the latter).
Sharing Our Peace
The peace of Christ that we receive during Mass is designed to be shared with our fellow congregants and with all we meet throughout the week. Just as peace can be exchanged at Mass with a simple gesture, it can be extended at work, school, neighborhood and home with appropriate gestures of kindness that are commensurate with the dictates of the particular time, place and person(s) involved.
“Peace begins with a smile,” the famous quote from St. Theresa of Calcutta, is applicable here. It is important to note that peace does not end with simple gestures. In the ongoing Incarnation of Christ, peace is accomplished in, through and with all incorporated into the Body of Christ through baptism. Offering and fostering peace is a daily process that “tends toward and flows from” the Sunday Gathering. We gather, are nourished and are sent into our respective parts of God’s vineyard with a mandate and mission: to bring Christ to others by the witness of our Faith.
The dismissal at Mass, vitally important and often overlooked, actuates the dynamic of being sent: the Father sends Jesus, and Jesus sends us. We are given provisions for the seven-day journey: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). God provides “seed for the sower” through the Holy Spirit as we go forth as evangelizing disciples: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:25-27).
Pentecost and Peace
At Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church, the promise of the Holy Spirit being sent was fulfilled in a dramatic and miraculous way chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)
From the beginning of the Church until the present day, the “ability” to speak the language of God’s love and be living witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world has been given to all who receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism.
As we approach the Easter season and Pentecost, let us be mindful of and thankful for God’s divine providence as we journey through life toward Heaven, strengthened by the Peace of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the hearts of all Christians.