A Vincentian View: Shalom

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Have you been praying for peace in these days?  I hope so.  I certainly have.  As I do so, I find myself reflecting on the meaning of the word “peace” and what it means for the Christian.

Most of us know that the Hebrew word “shalom” frequently translates as “peace.”  It serves for both arrival and departure.  Paul’s signature greeting contains a wish for peace (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Phil 1:2; etc.) and his letters often conclude with a word of peace (Rom 16:20; 2 Cor 15:11; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 3:16; etc.).  In the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17), Jesus promises his disciples the gift of peace:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. (Jn 14:27)

And, remember how he repeatedly greets the disciples in the Upper Room after the Resurrection?

“Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26)

This word “shalom” means more than simply “Hello” or “Goodbye.”  It contains a desire for wholeness, a hope for wellness and tranquility, a summons of blessing on the hearer.

When the resurrected Lord meets his followers on that Easter morning, they have been hiding and are fearful, and perhaps bereft.  Then the Master appears and his first word is one of comfort, forgiveness and restoration.  He wishes them peace.  It comes as no surprise that a Bishop can speak this word of greeting as he starts a Eucharistic celebration.

When Moses teaches the priestly prayer to Aaron as a blessing upon the people, it leads to the gift of peace.

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  (Num 6:24-26)

The inner serenity and completeness flow from an awareness of the Holy One.  The divine presence and protection bring the people a special security.  They know what peace means.

Yes, peace is a gift that one may experience within oneself.  It also describes one’s right relationship with others.  Paul has a powerful teaching on this point:

If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. . . .
“if your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink . . .”
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Rom 12:18, 20-21)

The Bible offers many examples of the peace that God brings.  It addresses the heart of a relationship with God:

I will listen for what God, the LORD, has to say;
surely he will speak of peace
To his people and to his faithful. (Ps 85:9)

Clearly, the concept of “shalom” goes far beyond the absence of conflict. As a very positive concept, it points to mutual respect and a desire for wholeness.

As we think about and pray for peace in our world, there is much to be sought and expressed.  We must engage ourselves in prayer, penance, and petition as we seek this important value and virtue.  Shalom.