The Sign of Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

John 14:27

One of my favorite parts of the Mass has always been the Sign of Peace. It’s probably because I like to be social, or because physical touch is my love language, but at it’s core, I think the beauty of the Sign of Peace is that we purposefully take a moment to share Christ’s peace with others.

I’ve heard the Sign of Peace described as “being at peace with your neighbor before being at peace with Jesus,” and that changed how I participated in the sign of peace. One cannot approach the Eucharist while holding onto a grudge or with contempt in one’s heart. Christ offered peace, forgiveness, and love freely and without reserve. As Christians, or imitators of Christ, we should be more than willing to do the same.

Of course, you have the freedom to pick and choose who you give the sign of peace to, but it’s so much more genuine when you give your signs of peace disregarding who they go to and only seeing Christ in the person right in front of you. During one Mass, I found myself in the pew in front of an ex boyfriend with whom I was not on good terms. During the sign of peace, knowing that he would not touch me or even look me in the eye, I still told him “peace be with you.” To my surprise, he returned the sign of peace.

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At first, I gave handshakes, hugs, or waves to people because that’s just what we did at Mass. Now, I give signs of peace more genuinely. With my family, friends, or strangers, I recognize Christ in the person in front of me. Although I only see them for a second or two, I want them to know that I really see them. I give signs of peace with the intent of saying “I want to love you as Christ loves you. I want to love the Christ present in you.”

Is there anyone that you avoid during the sign of peace? Is there anyone who God is calling you to make peace with? I pray that you can extend a sign of peace to that person, and whether it’s returned or not, you can rest in Christ’s peace and receive him in the Eucharist more gracefully and with more love of neighbor in your heart.

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