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Reflection
on the Readings


 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 9, 2004 Issue 

'Peace is the greatest blessing of God'

Despite any opposition, we must be willing to work for the gift of peace

April 18, 2004 -- Second Sunday of Easter


By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What is your understanding of peace?

2. What can you do this week to make the world a more peaceful place?

3. Who are the models of peace in your life?

Three times in the Gospel for this Sunday we hear the words: "Peace be with you!" And every time we gather around the altar to celebrate the Mass we pray: "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you." Then at the dismissal we often hear: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

So it is obvious that one of the central themes of Christianity and certainly of the Easter season is the grace of peace. But this blessing bumps up against some strong opposition. Thomas was not at peace when he hung onto his doubt. In the first reading we hear about so many people who are sick and troubled by unclean spirits and thus wanting in peace. In the book of Revelation John speaks about sharing in the distress of his times and the need for endurance. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins cries out: ". . . piecemeal peace is poor peace."

What is this grace of peace?

"The peace of Christ comes from the inner experience of his resurrection, the realization of the union of our true self with the Ultimate Reality" (Thomas Keating). Peace is an experience, both personal and communal, of right relationships. Jesus, though betrayed and abandoned, came to his disciples with only love and mercy. The disciples felt and heard the movements of grace in their heart. Once separated by sin, guilt, and fear from their Master, they were reunited and it was that union of their true self with the mystery of a gracious God that brought them peace.

"Peace is a gift, the fruit of a healthy human community. Peace is the final gift, the result of a harmonious and mature integration of fairness, justice, love, truth, liberty and respect for all. It must include mercy (compassion) toward the weak and powerless, tolerance and a patient waiting for growth. Peace never occurs in isolation. It is the function of a good life for all. For that reason, working for peace is considered to be a highly esteemed spiritual value. Peace is the greatest blessing of God to a people. Working for peace should be a central concern of the church" (Archbishop Fumio Hamao as quoted in Thomas Fox's Pentecost in Asia, 9).

In the book of Revelation we hear about fear and death. But St. John tells the people that because of the Son of Man, the One who lives, both fear and death have been conquered. The victory by Christ, the First and the Last, brings peace to community as well as the challenge to strive for peace in all relationships. John's vision and ecstasy is centered on the person of Jesus, he who is God's peace and mercy.

And a third reflection on peace: "The perfection of culture is not rebellion but peace; only when it has realized a deep moral stillness has it really reached its end" (Walter Pater). Both Peter and Thomas lacked a deep moral stillness. Thomas in his doubt and Peter in his betrayal felt that alienation that is characteristic of rebellion. Their wills were not in accord with God's will and thus lacked peace. But then Jesus once again entered their lives with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And with that gift came peace and joy.

When, at Mass, we exchange the sign of peace something powerful is being expressed. Let us realize what that gift is and be willing to work for peace.


(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.)


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