By Karla Luke
“Peace be with you,” are the first words our resurrected Lord spoke to the fearful Apostles hiding in the Upper Room on that first day of the week. Peace. Assuredly, peace must have been the last thought on their minds after all of the terrifying events they witnessed in the final days of Jesus’ human life on Earth. Their friend and brother, betrayed, denied, falsely accused, tortured and murdered was now standing before them with an offer of peace. What a contrast!
When we think of peace, we generally think the absence of conflict or war; however, in the scriptural sense, peace is much more. When we possess true peace, we enjoy wholeness, harmony and right relationship with God, others and self. Peace, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is a gift from God to us that is to be shared with all. Jesus, our brother, the Prince of Peace, came to unite heaven and earth and to show, by His selfless and loving example, how to be in right relationship with God and others. In The Joy of the Gospel – Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis suggests that in order to achieve peace we must become a people.
People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” Yet becoming a people demands something more. It is an ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter. (220 Evangelii Gaudium)
Pope Francis proposes that we can build a people of peace by being attentive to four specific areas: time, unity, reality and wholeness.
Time is greater than space – Today much emphasis is placed on immediate results. Let’s face it, we live in an instant gratification society. The power goes to the person that makes it happen the fastest! Pope Francis tells us that we must focus more on the processes that develop societies and help move people more toward full and meaningful lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and less on outcomes that benefit a few.
Unity prevails over conflict – Conflicts exist everywhere, in families, societies and among nations. People choose to address conflicts either by ignoring them, embracing them or facing them head on. It is the latter, recommended by Pope Francis, that has the greatest impact on building peace. In facing conflict we endeavor to go beyond the surface of the issue and establish meaningful dialogue affording dignity to all involved in hopes of coming to a deeper understanding of one another.
Realities are more important than ideas – We consistently struggle with trying to connect ideas to realities. In some ways we bury reality in unattainable objectives and fundamentalism. While it is good to have high aspirations, we must not lose sight of the present condition. While Jesus’ incarnation is the reality of the Word made flesh, it illustrates that reality is necessary to evangelization. The history of our salvation is the reality and we must continue act in that same justice and charity to bring to life the word of Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
The whole is greater than the part – There exists a relationship between the whole and the part: namely, we must be attentive to the worldly condition as well as our own local condition. Working for peace and justice in own community can have an exponential effect on other communities thereby assuring everyone, even the poor, of their own rightful place in society. We seek to maintain our own God-given individuality while pursuing the common good.
So as Catholic Christians when we come to that part of the Liturgy that invites us to share the gift of peace, let us remember that we are truly expressing the desire for wholeness, harmony and right relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Peace be with you!
(Karla Luke works in the Office of Education. She is writing reflections on Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel all year.)
By Karla Luke