Boudreaux was talking to his buddy, Thibodeaux, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently and based on many years of marriage, I’ve come to a remarkable conclusion.”
“This I want to hear already,” says Thib. “So tell me about your wonderful conclusion.”
“I’ve discovered,” says Boudreaux, “that if I only slightly upset Clotile, it’s almost certain that she will shout at me. Fair enough! But if I really upset her, she won’t shout louder but instead will give me the silent treatment.”
Thibodeaux almost immediately starts nodding his head and says, “I understand. To get a little peace, it’s sometimes worth putting in a little extra effort.”
Boudreaux would define peace as Clotile not yelling at him, but if we were to go around the room, I’m sure we would find a variety of answers. Peace is the lack of noise. Peace is sitting on a beach. Peace is being in the arms of one you love. All of these answers are correct, but they are really only highlighting a certain aspect of peace.
Webster’s defines peace as tranquility, quiet, freedom from civil disturbance, harmony, and so forth. The biblical understanding of peace takes these things into account, but it brings them all under an overarching idea that I can best describe as “oneness.”
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and the Greek is eirene (ir-ray-nay). Eirene / peace is a noun, but the Greek word has at its root a verb: eiro. Eiro means “to join or bind together that which has been separated,” therefore, peace is not just the absence of Clotile yelling at Boudreaux or some other noise or trouble, but is instead a brining about of oneness that transcends the noise or trouble.
Jim Walton was a missionary and linguist in the jungles of Columbia and he took on the task of translating portions of the New Testament into the local language. In the process, he found that he lacked the native vocabulary to be able to translate the word peace.
At some point, Jim was scheduled to take a local chief to a village that was a three days walk or a twenty minute plane ride, however, because of an error, the chief missed the flight and he became very angry. Finding Jim, he launched off into angry rant and Jim noticed that the chief kept repeating the same phrase. He did not understand it at the time, but translating it later he discovered that when the chief was angry, he kept saying, “I don’t have one heart.” The chief did not have oneness in his heart, there was something broken—he didn’t have peace.
I know that I quite often come back to this passage of scripture, so bear with me… on the night before he was crucified, we hear the great priestly prayer of Jesus and what does he pray for? He prays that those who the Father has given him “may all be one.” He tells the Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” He is praying that we have one heart with each other and one heart with the Father and he is praying that through him that one heart might be attained.
Now, do you remember the two disciples that were on the Road to Emmaus and the stranger (a.k.a. Jesus) joined them and how they were talking about all the things that happened with Jesus and the crucifixion and that when evening had come Jesus sat with them and broke bread and their eyes were opened and they recognized him? Well, at that point, Jesus vanished from their sight and those two disciples hightailed it back to Jerusalem to tell the others. At this point, Scripture tells us, “As they were talking about these things…”…as they were in the upper room, talking with the other disciples about what had happened—and this is where our Gospel reading picks up today—“Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’”
In the times before Jesus, the Israelites had wandered in the desert, then they came to the land flowing with milk and honey, but before they crossed the Jordan River into this promised land, the Lord renewed the Covenant with them: “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” and the people chose God, so God promised that he would be with them if they kept his commandments, but just as they wandered in the desert, they wandered in their faith and went after other gods, breaking the One True God’s Laws and his Commandments; therefore, God did not break the Covenant with them—there would always be a remnant—but he did take from them the peace, the oneness, that had been established between them. Speaking through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord said:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
your offspring would have been like the sand,
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.”
All the things that could have been, but in their wickedness, they turned from God and they were left separated, broken from God and from one another as they were carried off into exile, and that brokenness remained until it was healed on the cross and proclaimed to the disciples and to us in the upper room when “Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” St. Paul teaches us, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Christ Jesus, we again have oneness with God.
When you and I exchange The Peace, it is this hope, this oneness that we are extending to one another. That we might be of one heart with each other and with God, but it doesn’t end there. Jesus said, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” In saying “that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed,” Jesus is saying that peace—between God and man—is to be proclaimed and that we are the proclaimers, we are the witnesses of oneness with God, a oneness and peace that is made available to all.
He who is the Prince of Peace is sending us into the world to proclaim the restoration of our oneness with God. How do we do that? Perhaps St. Francis said it best in a prayer…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.