Our Lord was in favour of world peace, but that was not what He was bestowing on the apostles

Rembrandt - The Incredulity of St Thomas - WGA19095
Rembrandt. The Incredulity of St Thomas (Wikimedia Commons)

Our Lord would have been in favour of world peace. I think we can safely say that. Even if you think that some wars are, or have been necessary for justice, Our Lord’s positive will would be that people would not commit the sins that led to the injustice in the first place.

Be that as it may, when Our Lord appeared to the apostles in the upper room (Jn 20) and gave His greeting “Peace be with you”, he was praying for a peace within their own hearts rather than for a generalised world peace. We can infer this from a previous occasion on which Our Lord said that He would bequeath peace to the apostles and added, “Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27) Of course, the two things are not in opposition. As St John XXIII said at the beginning of his encyclical letter Pacem in Terris:
"Peace on Earth — which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after — can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order."
Our Lord also distinguished the peace that He desired for the apostles, from the peace that the world gives. Fr Dominic Phillips CM characterised this worldly peace as “tranquillity in sin and absence of all remorse as a result of the habits of vice and hardness of heart..”

Christian interior peace on the other hand, is the fruit of Our Lord’s suffering and death and is the effect and reward of virtue. Phillips summarised it as peace of three kinds:

  • peace with God by the testimony of a good conscience
  • peace with neighbour by the practice of charity
  • peace with yourself by habits of self-denial

We are reminded of Our Lord’s greeting to the apostles at every Mass. In the traditional Roman Rite, it is the first of the prayers of the priest after the Agnus Dei, in preparation for Holy Communion. In the modern rite, it is the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ” before “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” That prayer is a good reminder to us of the need to cultivate the interior peace that Our Lord wills for us and to identify what might threaten or disturb that peace and distract us from the work that we are called to do.

We ask Our Lord not to look on our own sins but on the faith of His Church. At times, we might be disturbed in our peace by wondering how much faith there is left in some echelons of the Church. This would be a distraction though. We could remove it by briefly remembering the devout faithful – indeed full of faith – in whose company we assist at Mass. Our Lord promised that he would be with His Church until the end of time and they are the proof of His fidelity to us.

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