JESUS’ GREAT GIFT
Following Jewish custom, the first Christians greeted each other wishing mutual «peace». It wasn’t a routine or conventional greeting. For them it had a more profound meaning. In one letter that Paul wrote around the year 61 to a Christian community of Asia Minor, he showed them his great desire: «May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts».
This peace shouldn’t be confused with just any old thing. It’s not just an absence of conflict and tension. Nor a feeling of well-being or a seeking of inner tranquility. According to John’s Gospel, it’s Jesus’ great gift, the inheritance he has wanted to leave forever with his followers. Thus says Jesus: «I leave you my peace, my peace I give you».
Without doubt they were remembering what Jesus had asked of his disciples when he sent them to build God’s reign: «In whatever house you enter, first say “Peace to his house”». In order to humanize life, what’s first is sowing peace, not violence; promoting respect, dialogue and mutual listening, not imposition, confrontation and dogmatism.
Why is peace so difficult? Why do we return over and over again to confrontation and mutual aggression? There’s an immediate answer so elemental and simple that no one takes it seriously: only men and women who possess peace can put it into society.
You can’t sow just any peace. With the heart full of resentment, intolerance and dogmatism you can mobilize people, but it’s not possible to bring true peace to the shared living. Having such a heart doesn’t help to bring attitudes together and create a friendly atmosphere of understanding, mutual acceptance and dialogue.
It’s not difficult to point out some aspects of the person who carries Christ’s peace within: they always seek the good of others, don’t exclude anyone, respect differences, don’t feed aggression, develop whatever unites, never what confronts.
What are we providing today from Jesus’ Church? Concord or division? Reconciliation or confrontation? And if Jesus’ followers don’t carry peace in their heart, what is it they carry? Fears, interests, ambitions, irresponsibility?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf