When Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples he said that their first words on entering a house were to be: “Peace to this house.” They were to be ambassadors of peace and goodwill. Without peace nothing is possible.
Peace is not just the absence of war or enmity. It implies openness, friendship, tolerance, goodwill, hospitality, reconciliation. It disposes us to reach out to others. It helps to break down barriers of suspicion, fear, prejudice, bigotry.
Working for peace means welcoming people close to us, those who annoy us or disagree with us, those who provoke anguish within us. To take the path of peace is to accept people as they are, with all their limitations and weaknesses. The people we need to make peace with are not just our friends but our enemies.
Shortly before Communion the priest says to us, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” What a wonderful gift is being offered to us – the peace of Christ, a peace which the world cannot give. Then he invites us to “offer each other a sign of peace.” The hand we reach out to our neighbors is the same hand with which we receive Jesus in Communion.
We come to Mass to receive blessings from the Lord. If we took nothing else away with us from here but peace, our time would be well spent. We must be prepared to give back something of what we have received. The end of the Mass is not like the end of a football game or film where simply get up and leave. At the end of the Mass we are sent out. Having received the peace of Christ, we are then sent out as ambassadors of peace to others.
If we wish to be effective messengers of peace three things are necessary. Firstly, we have to have peace ourselves. Secondly, we have to be willing to share that peace with others. And thirdly, the other person has to be willing to receive it from us.
The harvest is great. The opportunities for sharing peace are many. We may not always succeed, because it takes at least two to make peace. The great danger is that we will allow people to take peace away. This happens whenever we become angry, hostile, bitter, vengeful when others do not respond favorably to us.
We have to accept that our peace will not always be accepted. It may come back to us like the echo of our own voice. But at least we ought to try. In a world torn apart by rivalry, anger and hatred, we have the challenging vocation to be living signs of love that can bridge divisions and heal wounds.