The Sign of Peace is a staple of the Mass for most of us. The priest bestows the peace of Christ upon us and we in turn offer peace to our brothers and sisters in Christ. This part of the Mass has probably become routine and we do it without much thought. In reality, we should be amazed at these words since they are the very words Our Lord uttered upon His appearance to the disciples in the locked Upper Room following His Resurrection. These words are nothing short of astonishing. Meditate for a moment on the account from the Gospel of St. John:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” (John 20:19-21)
This passage of Scripture is significant in the Catholic theological understanding of the Sacrament of Penance, but for this article we are going to focus on Our Lord’s first words to his disciples after the Resurrection and their implication in our own lives.
Human weakness on full display
What had the disciples just done in the previous days? They had celebrated the Last Supper at which St. Peter claims he will never deny Christ, but a few hours later he does just that. The disciples fall asleep multiple times in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ tells them to pray. Once His betrayal is at hand, all of the Apostles save St. John flee. They abandon Our Lord in His hour of need. Christ is then subjected to torturous flogging, the Crowning of Thorns, the carrying of His Holy Cross, and finally crucifixion and death. The God of the universe, our Creator, dies for us largely abandoned by those whom He loves. It is Our Heavenly Mother, a few of the women disciples, and St. John who stand beside Him during His agony.
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