You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
In the Gospel, we, like the apostles, capture glimpses of Jesus as He comes in His resurrected form to assure us. Often, His greeting to the apostles is, “Peace be with you!” What is this ‘Peace’ of which he speaks? What is He offering to them, to us?
It is the Peace of forgiveness. As Jesus was crucified and His Body resurrected, he came to grant us Peace, the Peace which we can only experience through forgiveness. This forgiveness is the root of the tree of life. God offers this complete forgiveness to us and then asks us to extend it to each other. During the celebration of Mass, we extend this Peace to each other as the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Eucharist.
We are one human family through, with and in God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Peace is more than a lack of conflict. Peace, or in Hebrew Shalom, means literally “right relationship.” The gospel calls us to be peacemakers: that we live in right relationship with others, ourselves, and God.
At the end of the celebration of Mass, we are called to “go in peace,” a wondrous gift; yet incredible challenge. We are called to be holy—in the words of Peter’s epistle, a people “of His own”. To offer Peace, to go in Peace means that we leave the altar of the Lord and bring forth the table of the Lord in our daily living; that we have the intention to announce His praises, to make God’s Peace happen in our daily lives.
As faith-filled Christians we are in love with God. Love is a noun and a verb; it moves us into action. The Mass binds us to love God by acting against injustice, violence, war, prejudice—anything and everything that gets in the way of our loving one another. We go forth to act as priests, making God present to the world. We go forth to act as prophets, speaking on behalf of the oppressed and bringing hope to those in despair. We go forth to act as kings, serving and protecting the vulnerable and providing for the needs of others. We leave Mass recognizing that Jesus is present in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned who we encounter each day.
It is uncharacteristic of we who love God so much and wish to receive and breathe this Peace into the air of the earth that we would disparage each other. So, I was pained when I received emails and letters recently in reaction to the subject matter of Islam within a classroom; and our Prayer Service marking the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.
We are called to pray unceasingly for unity among all peoples; for God’s Peace. We come from the table of the Lord to serve as ambassadors of this Peace.
Nostra Aetate, a document promulgated by Pope Paul VI, speaks directly to the Church’s relationship with non-Christian religions. The Church considers above all what people have in common and what draws us to fellowship; that is the community of all peoples of one origin. God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. God’s providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all men, until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light.
To the Islamic faith specifically, the document says,
“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
Each pope since the promulgation of this document has worked toward interreligious dialogue, recognizing the many difficulties between Christians and Moslems, yet working sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit for all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.
When we participate in prescribed prayers “for unity,” and during ecumenical gatherings, we join in prayer with our separated brethren. Such prayers in common are a true expression of the ties which still bind us to our separated brethren. This prayer fosters justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. We pray for that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.
I encourage you to read Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio, both short documents found on the Vatican website. Let us pray that we bring forth God’s Peace to illumine the earth with His wonderful light.