The Introduction 

Consider the deep peace of Christ. The shalom of God in Hebrew means more than freedom from anxiety. Shalom is the fullness of God’s blessings, joy, and satisfaction, a life without need. To have the peace of Christ is to have it all. Nothing interrupts this abundance.

You know you live in the peace of Christ when nothing can harm you. The loss of a job means God has something new to offer you. Loneliness becomes the soil of contemplation, from which new life will come. Illness becomes a means of polishing your soul to a brilliant witness. The death of a loved one is sorrow mixed with the hope of reunion in God’s reign. Compassion becomes natural, forgiveness the first response to injury. You face life with freedom, others with love, and death with confidence.

The peace of Christ comes to us in ‘angel-speak,’ words rich in meaning. We can hear these words, Peace be with you, like we do most greetings: as a salutation of little impact. Or we can receive these words in full knowledge that Christ isn’t saying hello here, but means to give us something vital. The peace of Christ is our environment, as native to us as sea is to fish. We live in this peace. We breathe it in and let it out.

How do you witness to the peace of Christ in the way you live?

“Nothing should ever trouble or haunt thee,” Saint Teresa of Avila wrote in her prayer book. She breathed deeply and daily of the peace of Christ. Spend a few moments every day drawing in this peace, especially in the times you’re most prone to be anxious.

The Scripture (John 20: 19-22 Jesus Appears to His Disciples)

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you”. After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As I have been sent, even so I send you”. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The Story – Take a Deep Breath

What do these have in common: wind, water, fire, tongues, and a dove? They are all biblical metaphors for the Spirit of God – and they all fail to capture the fullness of that divine Person. Yet paradoxically, the Spirit who so eludes our definition is closest to us, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise “I am with you until the end”. The American songbook refers to such nearness in human relationships in this tune: “It’s not the pale moon that excites me / That thrills and delights me / Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you”. Just capitalise the Y in you.

The celebrated Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner declares that the Holy Spirit is the “nearness of God”. Profound. Simple. But how difficult it is to remain aware of that nearness. We’re aware of the busy, the loud, the fast in our world, but trying to be always aware of the silent, constant, life-giving nearness is like trying to be always aware of your own breathing. For most of us, it’s only in moments such as when your hot shower suddenly turns icy cold and leaves you gasping that you realise how much you need and desperately want that next breath.

Without that breath, we die. This is more than metaphor: It is reality.“We must will to believe in such a nearness – in the Holy Spirit,” says Rahner, and this is what we celebrate today: the nearness of Christ, the nearness of God, the breath that will never be taken away, that is keeping you alive in this very instant so that you may whisper, “Thank you”.

The Commissioning

As you go out, the Holy Spirit goes with you.
The Spirit of questioning will lead us to fresh understanding.
The Spirit of persistence will save us from discouragement.
The Spirit of compassion will call us to caring.
The Spirit of adventure will have us leave routine in the dust.
The Spirit of community will give us joy as we work with others. We know the Holy Spirit goes with us.
Rely on the Spirit.

GPBS © (2024)

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