In the days following his brutal torture and execution, and then his astonishing resurrection from the dead, Jesus sought out the his apostles — the ones he loved, despite their abandonment of him — to present them with one central message: “Peace be with you.”
The apostles were huddled away behind a locked door, filled with fear, confusion and doubt. The risen Lord appeared to them, offering them reassurance and evidence of his return. The apostles were able to go to him, see his wounds, touch them and be comforted by his presence among them once again. They were filled with his peace.
Jesus, who had just suffered untold agony, did not bring a message of vengeance, but one of calm, love and unity. Jesus’ peace was to be the foundation of the apostles’ ministry as, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were soon after sent out to the world to proclaim Christ to all nations.
Two thousand years later, it is this peace of Christ for which the world still longs so desperately. As Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine continues, and violence rages on other parts of the planet, we continue to echo Pope Francis’ prayer and plea for peace among members of the human race — the people that Jesus desires, more than anything, to be a part of his mystical body.
“Every war brings in its wake consequences that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the drama of refugees, and to the economic and food crisis, the signs of which we are already seeing,” the pope said on Easter Sunday during his urbi et orbi address. “Faced with the continuing signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks to life, Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender to evil and violence.”
As we enter into this joyous Easter season, we, too, like the apostles, often become susceptible to fear, confusion and doubt. More than we’d probably like to admit, we find ourselves desiring a peace that seems just out of grasp. In his address, Pope Francis implored each of us to “be won over by the peace of Christ,” adding that peace is “everyone’s primary responsibility.”
If that is true, what, then, are the ways that we can contribute to a more peaceful existence? While we may not be able to broker peace in Eastern Europe or the Middle East or elsewhere, we most certainly are able to be agents of peace in our own spheres of influence. Perhaps that’s at the office, where infighting, gossiping and political maneuvering are the norm. Perhaps it’s within the walls of our homes, where bickering is prominent and yelling is a go-to solution. Perhaps it’s on social media, where we are too often tempted into downward spiraling and ultimately pointless arguments. Perhaps there is peace missing among members of your extended family, between spouses, in your neighborhood or parish community, or elsewhere. Like the apostles, we need to go to Christ, remembering how he died for us, and how, through his resurrection, he brought us the hope of peace in this life and assurance of it in the next.
Peace on earth, St. John XXIII reminds us in his landmark encyclical Pacem in Terris, “can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” Until it is God who reigns supreme in our hearts — not one’s selfish desires for power or prestige or personal gain — peace will remain elusive.
As we approach the month of May, a month in which we pay special honor to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, and in which we remember St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, let us seek their intercession, asking them to implore, with us, the true peace that only Jesus Christ can bring. Let us set aside divisions and strive for unity. Let us seek compromise where we can, without compromising the truth. Let us work together in harmony for the good of our families, communities, nation and world. Let us turn to the risen Lord, remembering his sacrifice for us, and find comfort in his presence. Let us unite ourselves wholeheartedly with him in his mission as Prince of Peace.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young