In the original Hebrew, Peace is known as “Shalom,” which means wholeness or completeness. This word is used to describe one’s well-being, the state of a family, or harmony among nations. The men and women of the Old and New Testaments knew this well– that Peace is a gift from God, and is experienced in a right relationship with Him. This is a relationship expressed in our human relationships, harmony among peoples, and order within ourselves. As this is a gift from God, it ought to be preserved and protected. But we often lose our sense of peace when we break these relationships and allow injustice. Fr. Jacques Philippe, a known writer, identifies four reasons that we lose our peace:
1. The troubles of life, and the fear of being without
We worry about the future, and about providing for our needs. We forget to trust in the Lord and in his providence. As the Lord said, “Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matt. 6:31-33).
2. Other’s faults and shortcomings
Too often do we let our peace be determined by those who surround us. When we are offended or affronted, it is all too easy to lose self-control. We must be careful not to let situations determine how we act, and who we are.
3. Our own faults and shortcomings
Our Lord teaches us to be patient with ourselves, and He asks us to trust in the work he is doing in us. We are far from perfect, but we must strive to imitate our God who is patient with us. “Be patient, therefore, my brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil” (Jas. 5:7).
4. The fear of suffering
This may be the greatest obstacle to finding peace within ourselves. Our calling is to love in this imperfect world full of sin—and this entails suffering. In love, suffering is inevitable, but to choose not to love will involve greater suffering. We must trust in the Lord who has suffered for love of us, and remember that he has loved us first. He gives us only what we can handle, and He has a plan for us. As St. Paul wrote, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Peace is our vocation and true and lasting peace may not be achieved in our lifetimes. Despite this, we must actively pursue it, and seek to live justly. Pope Paul IV said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” This is our calling as Christians—to protect human dignity, foster right relationships, defend the truth, and to build peace in our world through love and justice.