“Peace be with you.” John 20:20-21.
I find these words of our Lord compelling. We hear these words many times during our liturgies and gatherings.
Today, we hear the source of this greeting in John’s Gospel. Here our Lord is appearing to the fearful disciples. They are literally locked in a room fearing for their lives. The Lord Jesus has been crucified and the hopes, dreams, full abandonment of their lives seems destroyed and all lost. Of course, we know it is not all lost because of the resurrection. But those disciples did not yet know. With that in mind, think about the greeting of our Lord to these lost disciples.
Our Lord comes to them despite the locked doors. So, the Lord is not confined by any worldly restrictions. That sounds very exciting to me… especially considering the restrictions the world seems to be putting on me during liturgies and gatherings! Even more exciting is this greeting of Peace. This Peace is much more than the worldly concept of peace (absence of conflict). The Peace our Lord offers is total harmony or unity with Him! If we are with Him and in Him, we are in total harmony with the natural world and the supernatural world. If Christ is God, the Holy Trinity, the creator and sustainer of all life, here and in heaven, then we must be in a state of total unity with God, each other, and our environment during Communion! This is indeed a mystery of our faith.
This is also why we ask folks to exchange a sign of this peace (Christ’s Peace) just before we enter the communion rite at Mass. In other words, just before we enter that fullest possible communion with God, we recall the Peace of Christ, the unity with Him, offered to us unworthy as we are, that we are about to enter.
During ordinary Sunday Masses (outside COVID restrictions) the liturgy invites those gathered to show a sign of Christ’s Peace that they just received… the presider speaks the words of our Lord: “Peace be with you.” How do we possibly show a sign of that kind of peace to one another? I do not believe the typical hand shake, kiss of the cheek or greeting that is usually expressed is an appropriate expression of Christ’s Peace. This is why I typically omit this exchange when permitted. This is not particular to St. Mary’s but a challenge throughout our culture. How do we show that Peace of Christ rather than just another typical greeting to each other? I have been thinking about this for over 20 years and there are no easy solutions.
In any case, the awesome Pentecost celebration is all about this Peace of Christ, unity with Christ brought to us by His Holy Spirit. This is a blessing beyond our exceptions and merits. I hope we can soon restore a greater unity in our celebration of the fullest Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and with all our brothers and sisters scattered by the COVID restrictions.
Finally, all this unity talk reminds me about how great it is to have Fr. Augustin back!
Peace be with you.