I suspect our priest is cringing inside though he smiles politely. The consecration has just happened. Jesus has transformed bread and wine into his very self. Then suddenly the church seems to erupt with socializing. The “Kiss of Peace” has come to mean a lot of hand-waving of the hippie peace sign and hugging of the family. The most sacred part of the Mass is disrupted.
I have been meditating on this—what does this Kiss of Peace really mean and how might we make a more solemn and meaningful time? I don’t want to be judgmental or to be cold and unresponsive. But I just wish this time of turning to each other, as Jesus did, would have a more profound, reverent tone while we honor Jesus’ real presence in our midst.
Jesus said: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
This offering of “peace” is not meant to be a worldly thing, he tells us. It’s not meant to be the waving the peace sign as in the 1960s when the other message was, “Make love not war.”
The gift that Jesus imparted to his followers was a gift of stillness in the heart. It was freedom from worry; freedom from stress; freedom from depression.
The disciples had frequent times when they were afraid, unsure and lacking in faith. Jesus gave them sacramental gifts to strengthen their faith and in so doing, their hearts became like a still lake that could reflect what was is above.
We desperately need that stillness of heart. I need it. My heart is so often troubled. I can feel the frown lines on my face solidifying. And sadly, this worrying and frowning reflects a lack of faith. God promised his aid for us who are on the journey Home, but we are called to trust in him. We are very much like the Hebrews in the desert. And yet, we have the great gifts of the sacraments. In going to Confession and going to Mass regularly, we can open the door to God’s peace, which is freedom from fear.
I wonder if this Kiss of Peace time might take on a more reflective mood if we changed the words. Since “peace” has become a throw-away message, much like “love,” perhaps we should be saying, “Be not afraid.” Jesus said that many time. His PEACE really is a stillness that can face troubles with courage and confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit. To say, “Be not afraid” is also a way of saying, “Trust in Jesus.”
Copyright Judith Costello, 2016. Art by Judith Costello; all rights reserved.