“Peace be with you,” are the first words of the resurrected Lord to his disciples. This may seem like a routine morning “Hello”, or greeting, or a slogan. However, in order to understand the significance of, “Peace be with you,” from the mouth of the resurrected Lord, we must understand that the disciples were scared. At the time Jesus appeared, “the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). The followers of Jesus were scared after the arrest of Jesus in the dark Gethsemane garden. They ran away. The next time we see the disciples gathered is in that locked room.
When someone is scared to the point that they lock themselves in a room, they are not at peace. Therefore, the scared disciples needed peace and Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” had great significance. Not only so, Jesus not only promised them peace, but promised them a long lasting peace, as Jesus promised them, “the Spirit”, the Holy Spirit that would descend on them on the day of Pentecost that would not only grant them peace, but a peace that would turn these men who were once weak in spirit, into courageous men who were willing to die for the Gospel that they preached.
“Peace be with you,” is used in several instances in the liturgy. Most predominantly, these words are said after the Libera Nos (Deliver us, Lord),as the celebrant says, “The peace of our Lord be with you always.” In a Mass in which the bishop presides, he greets the people after the Sign of the Cross, as stated in the Roman Missal, “Peace be with you.” In the Rite of Confirmation and Rite of Ordination (to the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate), the principal ordaining bishop gives the Kiss of Peace to the newly ordained saying, “Peace be with you.” The laity exchange each other the words, “Peace be with you,” at the exchange of peace during the Communion of Mass.
“Peace be with you,” is used very frequently in liturgy. However, when the words, “Peace be with you,” are said at Mass, do we recognize the significance of these words? During the exchange of peace at Mass, do we turn to the people around us and say, “Peace be with you,” and recognize that these are the words of Christ, the greeting of Christ that we wish upon one another?
In in fact only realized the significance of these words in recent years when I was going through the texts of the Roman Missal, and encountered the Gospel passage in which Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” to his apostles. Since then, the exchange of peace at Mass, and at every Confirmation and Ordination has reminded me of this Biblical story and of what the resurrected Lord wants to grant each and every one of us.
Human beings need and thirst for peace. When we say, “Peace be with you,” in the context of liturgy and wish it upon one another, let us always be aware that by saying so, we not only wish upon another person a good wish, but we ask the the peace of the risen Lord always be with that person. “Peace be with you,” is wishing upon someone not only a day-to-day peace materialistically, but a peace within one’s heart, peace of faith, an eternal peace.