Few words have been abused as much as the word «peace». We all talk about «peace», but the meaning of this term has been changing profoundly, getting further and further from its biblical meaning. Its self-interested use has made peace an ambiguous and problematic term. Generally today, messages of peace end up all too suspect and don’t carry much credibility.
In the early Christian communities, when they speak of peace, they aren’t thinking in the first instance about a more tranquil and less problematic life that passes with a certain order through paths of greater progress and wellbeing. Before all this and from its origin, individual or social peace is the conviction that all of us are accepted by God in spite of our mistakes and contradictions, that all of us can be reconciled and live in friendship with God. This is what’s first and decisive: «We are at peace with God» (Romans 5,1)
This peace isn’t just the absence of conflict, but a fuller life that is born of total trust in God, a life that affects the very center of the person. This peace doesn’t just depend on external circumstances. It is a peace that springs from the heart, that goes about gradually conquering the whole person and from there is extended to others.
That peace is a gift of God but is also the fruit of a not insignificant work that can extend throughout a whole life. To welcome God’s peace, to guard it faithfully in the heart, to keep it in the midst of conflicts, and to spread it to others – demands a passionate but not easy effort to unify and root one’s life in God.
This peace isn’t a psychological compensation in the face of lack of peace in society. It’s not a pragmatic evasion that keeps problems and conflicts away. It doesn’t involve a safe refuge for disillusioned and skeptical people in the face of a social peace that’s almost ‘impossible’. If it’s God’s own true peace, it becomes within us the best stimulus to go on working for a peaceful living together that is made between all and for the good of all.
Jesus asks of his disciples that, when they announce God’s Reign, their first message would be to offer everyone peace: «Let your first words be: Peace to this house!». If the peace is welcomed, it will go on being extended through the villages of Galilee. But if not, «it will come back to you», but it must never be destroyed in your heart, since peace is a gift of God.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf