The Elusive Gift of Peace

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection, he greeted them with the simple words, “Peace be with you.” This follows upon what Jesus said to them at the Last Supper: “Peace I leave with you; my peace is my gift to you . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14: 27)
We might ask why Jesus was so insistent on speaking of peace to his followers. Was it because they were still troubled and confused by what they had witnessed in his betrayal, suffering and death? Was it because he knew that they would feel lost and abandoned after he would leave them when he ascended to heaven? Was it because he knew that in carrying out their mission in the world they would experience rejection and suffering?
All of these things are possible. And it leads to another question: If Jesus really wants us to live in peace, where is that peace? Why can’t we find it?
The lack of peace is very evident in our world. We are acutely aware of the awful violence and suffering taking place in Ukraine. We read about the terrorism and violence happening in other places of the world every day. We know that our own nation is plagued by harsh political division and rampant crime in our streets. The Church too, is torn by pastoral problems and theological disputes. And so many people are just plain angry and anxious these days.
We can relate to the anguish of the suffering people of Israel: “Peace, peace! they say, though there is no peace . . . We wait for peace but to no avail.” (Jer 8: 11, 15)
Well, I guess the answer is that building a culture of peace is still something we’ve got to work on. After all, when Jesus spoke of peace to his disciples, he didn’t impose an artificial peace from on high. Rather, it was an aspiration, a hope, “a message that lives on in our midst as a task for men today, and a promise for tomorrow.” (The Roman Missal)
And so the fulfillment of Christ’s Easter message of peace belongs to us. We need to pray for peace, work for peace, and to live as people of peace and forgiveness in our daily lives. And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? May the Spirit of the Risen Christ help us to realize the promise of peace that Jesus gave us.
Something to think about: Why is the gift of peace so elusive?