Peace is too narrowly defined as “the freedom from or the cessation of war or violence” (Webster). According to this definition, a removal of forces secures peace. When violence is squelched, or war staved off, we call that peace. This defines peace by what it is not; it is the lack of disturbances. But there is a richer perspective.
Peace results from positive forces, not the mere removal of negative ones. The Catechism teaches that “peace is not merely that absence of war…[Rather] peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity” (#2034). Peace is not the fruit of bulwarks and preemptive strikes. Peace is not a work of violence. Rather, peace is the flower of justice and charity. It is not the automatic result of a vacuum, barricaded from bullies, but the effect of truth and mercy. Such is the peace of the Savior.
After the crucifixion, the disciples are terrified. They gather in the upper room. The doors are locked, but they are scarcely at ease. They shut out violence, but they hardly have peace. Then, suddenly, Jesus stands in their midst: “Peace be with you.”
But how can he offer them peace? They are terrorized. Their lives are sought. What grounds are there for peace? What is it based on? We find the answer in the next verse: “he showed them his hands and his side.”
The wounds of Jesus are not an ID card. He is not saying “look at these wounds and see that it is I.” He displays them for a far greater purpose. His wounds guarantee peace. It as if he is saying “see in my hands and my feet the proof of peace.”
Justice and charity are immanent in the wounds of Christ (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8). It was to fulfill the demands of justice that he gave “his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). He did it for love of us (Gal 2:20). If peace is the fruit of justice and charity, the wounds of Christ are its surest and eternal source. Nothing can separate us from it; nothing will disturb us (Rom 8:35-39).
Christ’s proof of peace changes everything. The disciples, no longer caged by fear, are emboldened and sent. Established in the wounds of the Savior, they walk among every opposition, sowing mercy: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”
Eternal peace empowers temporal witness. The wounds of Christ produce other’s Christs: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is our Christian commission: to bear the Messiah’s peace, even in our bodies. For final peace will be found, not in weapons, but in wounds.
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.