"Peace" is the first word that came from the lips of Jesus on meeting his Apostles. "Peace be with you. (Jn 20:19). Then Jesus gave them the power toforgive sins. Jesus knew man's weakness and the havoc sin causes in man's heart. It destroys the peace and joy of every man.
One of the famous tragedies of William Shakespeare is Macbeth. When Macbeth was returning after a victory, he was met by three witches. The first witch greeted him, "Thane of Glamis". The second witch greeted him "Thane of Cawdor", and the third witch greeted him, "King hereafter". As they disappeared messengers reached with the good news that he was appointed as the Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth went home and shared this strange experience with his wife. She enkindled his hopes, and persuaded him to Murder Duncan, the king, who came to his house as his guest. As Macbeth thrust the dagger into the heart of Duncan he heard a voice, "Macbeth Sleep no more." And "Macbeth has murdered sleep." Thereafter Macbeth never had peace in his life. His life became miserable. In his frantic attempt to get peace he committed murder again and again.
When Macbeth sinned against the king he lost his peace. Jesus was aware that sin destroys the peace of man. So when he wished them "peace" he also granted them the power to destroy sin. To destroy a powerful enemy we need a powerful weapon. Jesus put this weapon in the hands of the church when communicating to his Apostles the power to forgive sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus said to the apostles
"Those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven:
Those whose sins you retain,
they are retained."
Jesus knew well that the disobedience of man, the excessive desire of man for wealth, the selfishness of man, the hatred that brews up in the heart of man, causes separation from God. And this separation destroys the peace of man. Isaiah warned the Israelites, "Your iniquities have separated you from your God."(Is 59:2) And this separation from God is unbearable. David, the chosen king of Israel, experienced it when he broke the command of the Lord and he Lamented, "Do not withhold your tender mercies from me, O Lord" (Ps 40:1). God commanded Adam and Eve, "Do not eat the fruit of this tree." But when they disobeyed him they were estranged from God and they wanted to hide. This separation was miserable. And they lost their peace.
As sin destroys internal peace Jesus strictly commanded his disciples to love their enemies, and to return good for evil (Mt 5:44). Jesus ratified his teaching with his own example as he hung on the cross. He prayed, "Father forgive them" (Lk 23:24).
The estrangement that happened because of sin is bridged by Jesus (Eph 2:14) and Jesus gave the power to his Apostles to forgive sins and re-establish peace. St Paul wrote to the Romans affirming this message that God has called us to peace. God expects us to keep His commandment, and in return He gives us his peace. Proverbs tells us "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Prov.16:7)
For peace and joy to prevail in the Christian community, unity should be maintained. That is the message of the First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles taught the early Christians that three things are necessary to foster unity.
So they gathered regularly in the Portico of Solomon. The early Christians came together regularly under the leadership of the apostles. And today we should gather in the church, the house of God regularly. And this communion will certainly give us power and strength to remain united, forgetting all the differences.
Secondly, they listened to the teaching of the Apostles. We, too, must listen to the word of God and reflect over it. It will give us courage to fight our ego.
When the early Christians remained united under the leadership of the Apostles they worked wonders. The sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping mats, in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across.
Today the risen Lord stands in our midst and greets us too, "Peace be with you." Let's translate this message into action and pass on to our brothers and sisters. When you take initiative in patching up an estranged relationship with your friend, when you forgive a dishonest act of your friend, when you show kindness to someone, when you appease the anger of your friend, when you find time to re-establish a broken relationship, when you persuade someone to give up some evil habits you are giving the message, "Peace be with you". And the peace that you radiate will come back to you manifold.