We hear the words from the Gospel each and every time we celebrate the Eucharist. “Peace I give to you; my peace I leave with you.” Like most things that we hear over and over again, perhaps these words have lost their significance in our consciousness; they have become routine. Every once in a while, I will alter the words just slightly when I say this prayer to reflect a different translation which tells us that Jesus called peace his “farewell gift” to the disciples.
There is the very real possibility that we also don’t truly understand what Jesus is saying to us simply because we don’t live in the most peaceful of times. What is Jesus really bestowing upon us?
He reminds us that the peace that he gives is not the same as the peace that the world gives. In the world’s view, peace is often joined to the notion of justice. Others will pair it with the world “security.” Yet others will add the word “quiet” as in “All I desire is some peace and quiet.”
For followers of Jesus, peace is that conviction deep within ourselves that Jesus is with us in the midst of our troubled lives. Jesus knows what we are going through. He understands our pains, he knows our sorrows and shares our griefs. If we acknowledge his presence in our lives, we can be at peace with our situation, with our humanity and its frailty.
The example of Paul and Barnabas comes to mind. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that they gathered the Church together to tell them what God had done through them; that is, through their sufferings and trials. Notice that Luke does not say that they told the church what they had done but what God had done through them. This strikes me as the understanding that comes with the peace that Jesus gives us. God is acting through us, through our trials, through our suffering. We can live at peace with this realization if we remember that.
As we come close to the reception of the Eucharist today, we will once again hear the prayer about the peace that Jesus leaves us. Let us carry that peace throughout our day along with the presence of Jesus whom we receive in this Eucharist.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator