In this reading, Jesus offers his disciples the promise of peace, his peace. Don’t we all need it! But what is this elusive thing we call his peace?
Some might imagine it is the absence of war. But can one really be peaceful under a state of tyranny? A situation of prolonged injustice (assuming once again we understand what we mean by injustice and whether a situation is objectively so) may cry out for action on behalf of justice that disturbs the imposed peace.
Some might imagine peace as harmony; everyone consenting to live together according to certain norms and practices. My first reaction to this is: how boring! My second: any such model, whether in church or society, is usually the domination of an individual or faction over the others, however brilliantly such consent is manufactured.
Or perhaps peace is the blissful indifference one feels to the world around you when you attain an inner sense of joy and stillness, perhaps as you experience God’s presence. The problem with this is you are probably deluded: God does not pull us out of the world, out of caring. If you feel like that you may as well be dead.
So what is this peace Jesus offers? It is the peace of paradox, the sense of God’s presence in oneself and the world, however imperfect both are. It is the ability to live together, yet transcending the stupidity one often finds. And it is the ability to live in the world, whether of conflict or ‘peace’ (however illusory) with a sense of detachment, seeing it for what it is and doing what one can despite its messiness.