Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.
Peace, the Lord assures us, is not as illusive as it seems. He gives it to us; he leaves us with it because he is our peace. Speaking of the rift between Jews and Gentiles, Saint Paul spoke of Peace:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:13
Peace, it must be said, is a relationship with the Lord and with other people. It must be said because some people suppose it can only be found in isolation, far away from other people. It's good to be away from others once in a while; we all need our solitude. Even the mystics experience the absence of God sometimes. But a peace in isolation is for the dead, who rest in cemeteries, not for the living. Let's not call that peace.
As the Lord gives us peace, we give it to one another by our affection, concern, interest and esteem. Peace is welcome to the stranger and hospitality to the enemy. It is the gift we cannot keep for ourselves; it's only worth is in the giving.
Peace is also the gift received from the Lord. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were surprised when they recognized the risen Lord and had to admit they had enjoyed his company. "Were not our hearts burning within us as he spoke to us?" they said.
In that exchange we notice they were so rapt in his conversation that they were not distracted by themselves. Neither disciple said, "You make me feel so good." Immediately, upon discovering whom they had seen and heard, they rushed back to Jerusalem to share the news with the other disciples. They could not keep it for themselves; it was not a privilege for just the two of them.
Once, in the dead of winter, I stood close by a bird feeder and saw a dozen chickadees feeding off it. I held out one finger and made kissing sounds with my mouth. Sure enough, one bird came and landed on my finger for a moment. How long was that moment? Maybe two seconds, or three. It doesn't matter. There she sat and I treasure her gift to this day.
In today's Gospel we hear Jesus chide his disciples, "If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father...." Once again, we realize we cannot hold onto him or onto the peace he gives. Rather, we should rejoice in giving him to the Father, even as we struggle with reluctance. Saint John gives us these verses in his fourteenth chapter, before Jesus is arrested and crucified.
The reluctance of the disciples is particularly wrenching because they must endure the agony of Good Friday. He will dismiss them as he goes his way to Calvary; he answered the arresting officers, “... if you are looking for me, let these men go.” That dismissal must feel like an ice pick in the heart,
"But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."
Whenever we celebrate the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, a rosary or another devotional prayer, we offer to God the Sacrifice of Jesus. This is not an easy gift as those who fear to join us can attest. We give God our Peace as he has given it to us -- that we might receive God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.