I’m beginning to think that my ‘blog’ ideas only come up at Mass. It’s always at some point during the liturgy that an idea pops into my head for the week’s literary offering. This week, it was just before Communion at the sign of Peace. As I turned and shook hands with the stranger to my left, I was surprised by the earnestness in her voice. “Christ’s peace be with you,” wasn’t simply a phrase but a genuine prayer. As we began to pray the ‘Lamb of God,’ I was still thinking about that prayer. ‘What is Christ’s peace?’ I thought to myself. ‘What exactly are we all praying for?’
When I think of peace, usually it’s as the opposite of war. But why would we all wish each other peace at Mass if it’s simply non-war? I can’t remember the last time I had to put down my battle-axe and stand in a pew next to some sort of tribal enemy. After taking a deeper look at what we’re actually doing, the ‘sign of peace’ has a lot more to it than I realized.
Peace isn’t something that comes from us… it’s not a human virtue that we gain by being happy or embracing ‘flower power.’ Peace is a gift from God – it’s something that Christ gives us. In John 14 (yes, I’m Catholic and I’m quoting scripture) Christ says the words we use at Mass: “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.”
Now, in Hebrew that ‘peace’ is actually ‘Shalom.’ I didn’t know what ‘Shalom’ exactly meant, so I looked it up and it’s about the peace between us and God. Some people might call it tranquility… when your heart isn’t disturbed because you know God is with you. Who wouldn’t want someone to give them that? But when Jesus says it, He’s also about to give the Apostles the Holy Spirit. It isn’t the comfort of knowing that a distant God cares about you; it’s the true peace of having that God with you.
But the peace of Christ extents past even the individuals at Mass to the whole Church. It’s totally fitting that we pray for unity and peace right before we all receive the Eucharist. At that moment, Catholics all around the world are united in the Body of Christ. We hear a lot about world peace, but that’s a moment when we’re actually working towards it.
So. Another week, another part of the Mass I’ve blogged about. The next time you’re in Church and it’s “peace” time, take a second to think about what we’re all saying. You never know who you could inspire with your prayer for their peace.
Peace be with you