By ARCHBISHOP GREGORY J. HARTMAYER, OFM Conv. | Published April 27, 2023 | En Español
When a priest is selected as a bishop, one of his first tasks is to choose a motto that will accompany his coat of arms. The motto is a phrase or Scripture verse that will serve as a cornerstone for his ministry as a bishop.
For me, the choice of my own episcopal motto was an easy one. St. Francis of Assisi, whose spiritual son I am, would greet his brothers with the words “Pax et Bonum,” meaning “Peace and All Good.”
Peace and good are central components of the Franciscan charism. St. Francis favored the phrase’s use and often began and ended his sermons and letters with those words. The phrase is a reminder to be at peace at all times with all things and to live a good life.
After his resurrection, Jesus entered the upper room where his disciples had been in hiding since his crucifixion. They were afraid for their own lives. Jesus greeted them with the words: “Peace be with you.”
His words were a profound prayer and expression of hope. Through these words, Jesus was praying that the disciples would find peace. They were words of assurance that he would be with them in the future. They were a source of tremendous strength for the fearful disciples. There were many ways in which Jesus could have greeted his disciples, yet he chose four words that he knew would offer them great comfort in their time of distress.
Jesus was the source of peace then, and he is our source of peace now. These words assure us of God’s faithfulness and his consolation.
On that first Easter Sunday, the disciples were traumatized by what they had witnessed: Jesus’ arrest and trial, his crucifixion and his death. They were only too well aware of their own weakness and lack of faith. Fear, doubt and uncertainty were the order of the day. They had failed Jesus.
Jesus could have admonished them for abandoning him in his hour of need. However, he greeted them: “Peace be with you!” He wanted them to be at peace within and with one another and with him.
Courage for our circumstances
What does the Easter greeting say to us? “Peace be with you!” No matter how often we sin and how grievous our offenses are, God in his mercy and compassion forgives our sins. Peace comes into our hearts as we are reconciled with God and one another. And this peace also gives us the courage to face challenging problems and circumstances of life that come our way.
Jesus never abandons us in our time of need. In his own words: “I am with you always.” We are beloved children of God, and he wants to place peace in our hearts, so that we can follow him in our own lives of faith. Peace is a gift given to us freely by God and along with it comes a responsibility – to extend that same peace to others by tearing down walls of hostility, condemnation and prejudice.
The peace of Christ must reign supreme within our hearts. The disciples, especially Peter, realized what they had done wrong. For his own part, Peter had denied Jesus not once, but three times. And yet he experienced the love and mercy of the Risen Lord.
“Love covers a multitude of sins.” If we commit ourselves to living a good and peaceful life, we will find ourselves more united and drawing closer to the Lord for strength and for peace as we navigate the often tumultuous storms of life. To you and me, Jesus says: “Peace be with you!” These words are the greeting of the bishop to the congregation at every Mass he celebrates. Peace is a precious gift.
On Easter Sunday, our Holy Father Pope Francis delivered his customary Urbi et Orbi address from St. Peter’s Basilica.
He said: “May we allow ourselves to experience amazement at the joyful proclamation of Easter, at the light that illumines the darkness and the gloom in which, all too often, our world finds itself enveloped.” He went on to pray for peace in the many troubled parts of the world, beginning with Ukraine and Syria and ending with many of the African nations. His words reflected a fragile world.
He prayed for the vulnerable in our society, the poor, refugees, political prisoners and migrants, as well as victims of human trafficking and every form of slavery. He pleaded with world leaders to ensure conditions for dialogue and peaceful coexistence.
Jesus preached: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” At the Last Supper, his parting words were: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Throughout his life, Jesus worked tirelessly to remove all obstacles to peace. And then, on Easter morning, he stood before his disciples greeting them with words of peace.
Let these words resonate within our hearts because they are a promise and gift of the Risen Lord. And so my dear friends in Christ, I greet each of you with the same words of the Risen Lord: “Peace be with you!” In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, I pray that you will experience Pax et Bonum, Peace and All Good not only in this Easter Season, but always.
And let us pray for our world recalling the words of Pope Francis: “May we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility.”
And may the Lord grant you his peace.