Gift of peace: the gift of Shalom!
When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. His first words to them were, “Peace be with you!” The apostles needed the Lord’s peace. They had abandoned Jesus. Most of them ran away and were scattered when Jesus was arrested. Peter, the “rock,” crumbled under pressure and denied Jesus three times. Judas betrayed Jesus and took his own life. Scripture records only one of them being present with Jesus when He died. All these events had just taken place, and the Apostles were full of fear. They knew a terrible injustice – the murder of an innocent man who was the Messiah – had taken place, and they felt powerless to do anything about it. Their relationship with God and the society they were in was shattered. They needed God’s peace.
Peace in Hebrew is “shalom.” Some think of peace as a feeling. But the peace of Christ is much more. God’s gift of shalom would mean that the person has come into a right relationship with God, with themselves, with others and even with nature and the things of the earth. Shalom implies well-being, and harmony between ourselves and all things. When this harmony and well being exists, God’s shalom has come to us; and yes, with it comes a deep feeling of goodness, wholeness, well-being, and inner peace.
Most of us experience moments of this well-being and harmony. A friend of mine went hunting and experienced deep peace as he sat up in his tree, looked out upon the woods and field, heard the animals and saw the birds fly through the blue sky and sunshine. He realized his oneness with creation. He was of the earth like Adam and the created things around him. His mind was lifted up to consider the Creator of it all, and moreover, that the Creator of it all loved him. His faith had told him that he was made in the image and likeness of God Himself. In Jesus Christ, he could even call God his Father. Just as my friend felt the peace of God come upon him, shalom can come to us when we grow in harmony with the order God has created.
Peace also comes when we reconcile with each other and treat each other with justice. Another friend was standing behind me in a crowd once, hoping to say ‘hi’ to me. I was late for an engagement, and I walked away. Shortly after, I was intercepted by someone else, and again my friend was close by. Not seeing him, I walked right by. My friend didn’t say anything to me, but was left disturbed by my actions. Thinking I ignored him, he was angry and upset. So the next day, the retaliation began. I was given the cold treatment. Ouch! Not knowing what was wrong, I was tempted to get angry myself. By the grace of God, I brought up the behavior with my friend, because I realized our relation was no longer right. The peace and well-being of our relationship had been disturbed, and I wanted to do what I could to correct it. Fortunately, after a heart to heart talk, the misunderstanding was cleared up and reconciliation occurred. The shalom of God had been restored, and we were happy again. God wants us to experience His peace. Jesus said, “My peace is my farewell gift to you.”
In our exercise this month, we will do an examination of conscience to help us become aware of our various relationships and how we conduct ourselves in them. Shalom comes when a wrong relationship is made right. It comes through acting justly, seeking what is good and walking humbly before God and others.
In my relationship with God ...
Am I honestly putting this relationship above all others? How concretely am I doing this? Am I expressing my love for God through obedience to His commandments, for as Jesus said, “He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the one who loves me.” (Jn 14:21) In my relationship with God, do I open my heart to His word in my life? Is Jesus really Lord of my life? “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all!” Do I give myself time to spend with God? Do I just assume God will be there for me? What about me being there — being present to God? How much do I really pray each day? Do I give God quality time or just the leftovers?
Dear God, help me right whatever is wrong in my relationship with you. Dear Jesus, grant me your peace and righteousness.
In my relationship with myself ...
Do I treat myself with respect? Do I try to maintain a balance in my life between prayer, work, rest, play and time with family? Do I honestly look at bad habits and destructive patterns in my life? What specific things am I doing that will help me change bad behaviors? Without a specific plan for change in mind, I am being dishonest with myself.
Dear God, help me to be honest in my relationship with myself. Help me to know myself so that I may be humble before you. Help me to accept myself, the goodness that is there, and accept the bad that is there, too – not to be complacent about change, but to acknowledge my constant need for your grace and peace in my life. Dear Jesus, grant me your peace and righteousness.
In my relationship with others ...
Do I try to love those around me ... my family, my coworkers, my neighbors and those I meet each day – on the highway, in the grocery store or shopping centers? What kind of language comes out of my mouth? What do I do that shows that I am loving them? Do I treat others with respect and dignity? Do I use people? Do I think of my needs or theirs? Do I want to be served or to serve? Do I ask people what they need or would be helpful to them, or do I just assume what they need? Do I give to the poor and make a sacrifice for the poor? Do I share what I have with others? Do I know that I am my brother and sister’s keeper? Do I fight against grave injustices against humanity such as abortion? Am I aware and concerned for the needs of those in other countries of the world, doing what I can to be conscious of their needs and respond to them?
Dear God, help me to be just and merciful, kind and forgiving in all my relationships. What I do to others, I do to you. Help me to treat others as I would want to be treated by you. Dear Jesus, grant me your peace and righteousness.
In my relationship with nature …
Do I have a real concern for mother earth and if so, how do I concretely show it? How do I take care of my environment? How do I work at limiting pollution, and waste? Do I abuse nature or respect it? Do I see God’s handiwork in the things around me, and grow in gratitude and thanksgiving for creation? Pray the Canticle of Creation’s praise of God in Daniel 3:57-88 or read Genesis 1-2. Dear Jesus, may I join with all creation in singing your glory. Grant me your peace and righteousness.