Q: Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life? (Pt 4)
The Resurrection peace
“Peace be with you!”. This is the standard greeting that a bishop gives at the beginning of Mass. This is different from the priest’s greeting: “The Lord be with you!”.
The greeting, “Peace be with you” is given by Jesus four times after the Resurrection (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19; Jn 20:21; Jn 20:26). During His earthly life, He uses the phrase once (Jn 14:27), in His farewell discourse and to speak about the promise of His gift of peace. How does this gift of peace relate to the family?
In the farewell discourse, Jesus distinguishes two types of peace. He says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14: 27).
This verse comes in the midst of Jesus instructing His disciples about His leaving—and their agitation and distress. But also, “Peace I leave with you” (Shalom) is more than a greeting that says, ‘Hi’ or ‘How are you?’. Shalom is right relationship. Shalom is not the absence of war or strife; it brings the conditions that are required for peace.
In the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, peace was broken. The harmony that existed in the beginning where God walked with man in the cool of the evening was disrupted (Gen 3:8). This disruption is the beginning of strife in the family: the man blames his wife (Gen 3:12); the wife blames the serpent (Gen 3:13); there is pain in childbearing (Gen 3:16); and the notion of ‘ruling over’ between husband and wife (Gen 3:16).
To Adam, God says, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”, with implications for the whole family (cf Gen 3: 17–19). Here we have seen the untangling of harmony and disruption of peace.
Through sin, the four fundamental relationships were broken: the relationship between God and us, the relationship between woman and man, the relationship between the human and creation and the relationship between us and ourselves—we hid (Gen 3:8).
The peace—shalom—was broken and strife entered the human situation. This is the natural state of the family.
When Jesus says: “My peace I give you”, what does He mean? Well, Jesus is in complete harmony with God the Father, with us, with the creation and with self. He after all is the Prince of Peace. Not only is Jesus living in complete harmony but, through the Paschal mystery, He gives this harmony to us as a gift.
Through the family, harmony was destroyed. Through the family, Jesus intends to restore the harmony with His gift of peace.
Peace, gift and work
Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, reflects on the nature of peace. He says: “For peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men” (76).
If the family is to be a “school of love”, it needs also to be a school of peace and for this it needs to be a school of justice. Love, justice, and peace are inseparably bound. We cannot have peace on our own. Peace is a gift from the risen Lord. He gives us His peace, His harmony, and His participation in the divine harmony.
The ancient heresy of Pelagianism would have us believe that sin did not mortally wound human nature, so we could fix the problem if we tried hard enough. Christianity teaches us that only through the gift of the Paschal mystery, do we have the possibility of peace.
While peace is a gift given to us freely from the risen Lord, it is also something that we need to strive more perfectly for, every day. Peace in our families comes because of the gift of Christ. It also requires that we do the work of love, of justice, of peace. It requires a surrender to the will of God who orders all things according to His perfect plan.
Peace in the family
The first time that Jesus greets the disciples has a context. Peter denied Him, as Jesus had prophesied on the Thursday night. All the disciples ran and left Him alone. Only the beloved disciple reached the cross and stayed with Him through the ordeal.
The context of the greeting of peace and the gift that Jesus gives is the utter failure of the disciples. In the face of this failure, Jesus gives them right relationship with God, with each other, with the creation and with the self.
In case they miss the radical extent of the gift, He invites them back to mission. He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit and then the power to forgive sins (Jn 20:21–23).
To build peace in the family, we need to first receive the gift of peace that Jesus gives, not the peace of the world which is empty and hollow. This requires both husband and wife surrendering to God’s will. Both striving to be docile to God and to each other.
To receive the gift of peace from Christ, we need to surrender. If we are filled with our own self-interests, we cannot receive. We also need to receive forgiveness from the Lord, and from one another, for all the ways we have contributed to strife. We need to receive the Holy Spirit and we need to forgive each other. Peace is built up in the family every day when we relate to one another with love and justice. This is how the family becomes the source of peace for the world.
Peace is a gift from the risen Christ to His Church. Peace must be constantly built up through the dynamic of the family as a school of love, justice, and peace.
Reflect on your family: Is it a place where harmony is experienced? What can you do as a family to build up peace every day?