“Peace be with you!” Peace is the first gift of the Risen Lord, the peace which the whole world desperately seeks. Just think of what’s happening today in Ukraine, Palestine… and right here in our country (with the uncertainty of the coming election).
Christ’s peace is not the peace which the world understands as an equilibrium of forces. It is an authentic peace, a new reality, which is born from the mercy of God and paid with the price of Christ’s own blood.
By his passion, death and resurrection, Christ conquered death and sin and achieved the reconciliation between God and humankind.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” As Jesus gives his peace and reconciliation to the apostles, he likewise commissions them (and us) to give his peace and reconciliation to everyone.
Peace then is a gift and a mission. But what is peace really? And how can we best fulfill our task of serving peace?
I find paragraph 488 of the Compendium on the Social Doctrine of the Church very helpful in answering these questions. “Before being God’s gift to man and a human project in conformity with the divine plan, peace is in the first place a basic attribute of God: ‘the Lord is peace.’” (Jdg 6:24)
Before peace is a gift and a task, it is a divine trait. Peace is God’s nature, presence and action. Hence our basic task as persons committed to the work of peace is to allow God to work in us and through us. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” This was how St. Francis of Assisi understood the work of peace building.
To be peace builders therefore means to be channels of God’s peace, of God himself who is peace. But we are human channels, not some inanimate steel pipe or concrete conduit. God’s peace can only flow through us if we conform our will to his, if we assume his own nature and assimilate his own attributes, if we allow ourselves to be transformed into him.
Now we understand why before sending his apostles to be missionaries of peace, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He breathed on them his own life. Thus, St. Paul can only say, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:19)
When our life is transformed into God’s own, his attributes become visible and operative in us: his goodness, beauty, even power, and his peace. Then, we truly become effective channels of peace.
St. Augustine defines peace as “tranquilitas ordinis” (tranquility of order). It is the harmony that flows from the order established by God in creation. We all know from Scriptures that when God created the world there was peace all over. The relationship between God and man was marked by righteousness.
And the relationship between man and creation was marked by respect and a sense of responsibility. It was only when man sinned and tampered with the divine order that violence and division entered into the world. Peace became an elusive quest since then.
Peace building consists in putting back the original order willed by God. The etymology of shalom, the biblical word for peace, denotes wholeness, integrity. Peace building consists in restoring the original justice.
In the end, peace building consists in building God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God is where God reigns, where his will is sovereign and is obeyed. “Thy kingdom come,” means “Thy will be done.” When we seek and follow the will of God, we hasten the coming of God’s kingdom, “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”
The Easter candle is a powerful symbol of Christ and the new life he won for us. When we live his life, we shine with his own light. It is his light that dispels all darkness, puts order in chaos and ensures peace in the end.
They say that in South Africa, during the days of the apartheid, people would light candles and place them on their windows to signify their hope that one day the darkness of apartheid would be overcome. Soon the government declared the lighting of these candles illegal, like the carrying of guns. It became a joke among children that the government was afraid of lit candles.
True enough, apartheid collapsed. Looking back, we now see that the lit candle proved to be a more powerful weapon than the gun. How much more the light of Christ that shines in us!*