By BISHOP BERNARD E SHLESINGER III, Commentary | Published April 28, 2022 | En Español
I am often tempted to view peace as achievable only if everything goes as I planned. I am tempted to see peace when there are no interruptions or where there is an absence of storms and conflicts that lead to war. These thoughts I have concerning finding a perpetual state of peace are dependent on circumstances which are out of my control. I have learned, however, that the peace which endures is connected to being in the presence of Jesus Christ independent of any situation or future disappointments and all which might threaten my sense of well-being.
“Peace be with you!” This was the first message of the risen Jesus to his disciples, who were locked behind closed doors fearful and anxious about their future. Jesus did not greet them with reproach despite their recent abandonment during his passion and crucifixion. Nor did he judge them unworthy of his trust in the future.
Peace is his gift, and his disciples recognized that it is neither temporary nor can it be manufactured or taken away. Jesus wanted to bring peace to their hearts and calm their fears.
During the Easter Season, we read from the Acts of the Apostles to reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of Christ’s first followers in bringing reconciliation and peace to a troubled world at the risk of unpleasant circumstances. Some of the followers were soon to be jailed for their faith in Christ while others were to be killed or exiled. In spite of all this, the disciples lived in Christ’s peace and preached repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Sadly, the disturbing news in the world reveal that Christ’s gift of peace is yet to be received and shared by many. Pope Francis reminded us in his Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday, “that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him.”
The invasion and resulting war in the Ukraine, the reality of the millions of displaced refugees, the potential escalation of the war beyond borders and the possibility of famine point to the fact that self-interests have replaced our need for reconciliation and the need to focus on Christ as the Prince of Peace.
We, who are anxiously watching what will happen in Europe or other countries, cannot stand on the sidelines waiting to hear the latest news, hoping that tomorrow will be a better day and that there will be a cease fire. We cannot excuse ourselves from the task of sharing the gift of Christ’s peace with others at home. We cannot isolate ourselves in weakness or shame and forget that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
Jesus says, “In the world you will have problems, but take courage I have overcome the world.” Peace is his gift and not as the world gives it does he give it. Let us pray for the gift of peace so that we can be truly called children of God.