Shalom . . . True Peace
Peace is . . . The absence of war and violence. The absence of noise. The absence of disturbance. Peace is certainly all of this, but these definitions are focused on the external.
Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” literally means “peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, tranquility.” Shalom is a more interior, heart-felt, soul-rooted peace. When a Jewish person greets another with shalom, they are not wishing just an absence of noise, disturbance, and violence; they are wishing a complete contentment even in the midst of any fears, difficulties, or suffering.
Jesus offers his disciples shalom when he appears to them after the resurrection. He knows that they are feeling great sorrow over his death. He knows that they are afraid that they, too, might be persecuted. He knows that they are unsure about everything that he has taught them. He knows that as he stands before them, they are confused and doubtful. He knows that they need shalom. So he breathes his Spirit of Peace on them and wishes them shalom. He gives them the heart-felt, soul-rooted peace that only comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit. It really wasn’t until they received the fullness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that they realized the fullness of Christ’s peace. After that, it didn’t matter what difficulties they encountered; they retained their deeply rooted peace in Christ in the midst of all their grief and sufferings.
Jesus speaks his shalom to us, too. Like his disciples, we are afraid and confused. We often doubt the presence of the resurrected Christ. We live in the midst of life’s difficulties. We are confused by the chaos of pain and violence in our broken world. Jesus breathes his Spirit of Peace on us, wishing us shalom: complete, heart-felt, soul-rooted contentment and tranquility. It is up to us, though, to open our hearts to receive the Spirit of Peace and allow shalom to penetrate into our souls. When we are open to experiencing this shalom, it will not matter what is happening around us or to us in our lives. Despite any difficulties and sufferings, we will retain the deeply rooted peace of Christ.
Through this Easter season, let us continually open our hearts to absorb the peace that Christ offers us. May we allow shalom to permeate our entire being so that we, in turn, might share shalom with everyone we encounter.