Isaiah 66: 10-14 ; Galatians 6: 14-18 ; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20
When I was a child my favorite part about Mass on Sunday was the sign of peace, because it meant that I got to go around and shake people’s hands. Each Sunday we have the opportunity to offer each other the sign of peace, to say “peace be with you”. In today’s gospel Jesus speaks much about peace. Today Jesus sends His disciples on a mission. The disciples are told that when they encounter others they are to offer them peace in a gesture so much like the sign of peace we offer at Mass. As Christians, Jesus sends us to bring peace to others. Sometimes we offer people peace so casually at Mass, but we do not think about what true peace means. What is this peace that we want to “be” with other people? Also, it is very important to consider if, outside of this gesture on Sundays, we are offering peace to those we come in contact with on a daily basis.
True peace, the kind of peace Christ talks about in the Gospel, has a deeper meaning than we normally imagine. The peace that we are to offer at Mass is something that is so much more than the way that peace is usually understood. We usually think that peace is simply the absence of conflict. We say that after World War II there was peace in Europe after the treaties. There was peace because open conflict had ceased. But was there true peace? Far from it. After fighting had stopped, people in Europe were deeply wounded by the violence done. There was anger and despair in people’s hearts. A treaty did not obtain full, true peace. The peace that Jesus is talking about is so much more. True peace is peace of heart; it is consolation, joy and tranquility. This peace is not something man-made but comes as a gift from God. The first reading speaks vividly of the peace God brings. He consoles us like a mother nursing her baby. God comforts us like a parent comforts their child by putting them upon their lap. St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd reading that the peace that God gives us was won by the Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. On the Cross Jesus conquered the enemies of peace: sin and death. True peace is a gift from God and was won by Jesus on the cross.
When we receive this kind of peace from Jesus, we need to share it with others. If our heart is truly touched by this kind of peace we are compelled to go give it to those around us. Picture for a moment an empty glass. Imagine that you take a pitcher full of water and begin filling the glass. When the glass is full, you continue to pour the water so that the glass overflows and water runs down the cup and onto its surrounding. This is what happens when Jesus fills us with peace. In this analogy, the water is peace, our heart is the glass and Jesus is the one holding the pitcher. When Jesus pours peace into our heart, He fills us to the brim and the peace we receive will spread to those around us. The heart of every person thirsts for peace. In order to spread peace to those around us we must first receive God’s peace, we must allow Jesus to fill our cup. You cannot give what you do not have. Notice in the gospel that the disciples are only sent to bring peace to others after having been with Jesus. They first received peace from Him. We receive Jesus’ peace through prayer and receiving the Sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation. When we do this we become like that overflowing cup, God`s peace will flow from us to those we come in contact with. When our heart is touched by God`s peace we transmit peace to others.
Though many will accept the peace we offer, some will reject it. When we go bringing peace to those around us, though the majority will willingly accept it, some will not want to receive it. In the gospel, after Jesus has sent His disciples on a mission he warns them of this reality. Some people will welcome them, others will not. If you are looking for an example of people rejecting Christians and their message, look no further than the Internet. Many of you are probably aware that the past two Popes have had Twitter accounts. If you have no idea what Twitter is, if you think that a “tweet” is just a sound a bird make, allow me to clarify. Twitter is a program that allows you to send a short message to a large group of people. People can share this message with others and even respond to your message. Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have used Twitter to share short Gospel messages with millions of people. In general their messages have been well received. But, it you ever look at the responses people write, you would be shocked. Many people write incredibly rude and hateful responses to the Popes. There are a lot of broken and wounded people who respond to a well-intentioned message with outright hostility. When we are rejected in this way, we should not get angry or stay to debate. We shouldn't “feed the trolls”, as they say in internet lingo. We should follow the advice of Christ and “shake the dust from our feet”. We must not allow the hate and bitterness of others to cling to us and poison us, destroying our peace. We should shake it off. Though many will accept the peace we offer them, some people, who are wounded and broken, will reject it.
Jesus calls us to bring peace to all people, but we need to start with those closest to us, our own family. Christ’s mission to bring peace far and wide must start in our own family. Mother Teresa often said that “peace starts at home”. If a family is at peace, then it will bring tranquility to society. On the other hand, if a family is at war, it will bring discord to society. It is like when you throw a pebble in a pond and ripples are formed on the surface of the water that spread far and wide. Such a small stone can have such a great effect. Likewise, a family that is at peace creates a ripple-effect in society; its affect can be huge. How then can we bring peace to our family? To quote Mother Teresa again: “works of love are works of peace”. Through small works of love we can bring peace to our families and eventually to the world. Something as simple as a smile or saying “good morning” can bring peace. Helping a younger brother or sister with their homework or house chores is a work of love. Taking the time to listen patiently to your husband or wife who has had a hard day at work is an act of peace. Calling up an elderly relative to see how they are doing is also a work of love. Works of love are works of peace. Peace starts at home; from there it radiates to all of society.
Today our world yearns for the peace that only Jesus Christ can give. Jesus sends us to bring this peace to others. Whenever we give each other the sign of peace we can remind ourselves of this in a special way. It is significant that shaking hands is a sign for agreeing to something, of making a deal. When you give the sign of peace today, let it be your chance to agree to be someone who brings peace to others, starting with the members of our own family. Let us agree to bring peace by doing simple acts of love. Every time we offer each other the sign of peace commit to doing this. Let us shake on it.