“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
What does this mean?
First, remember how the Messiah is associated with peace. There is Isaiah 9:5 that Handel used in “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” in his Messiah: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
We also see this association of the Messiah with peace in other places in Isaiah and in Haggai, which says “Greater will be the glory of this house, the latter more than the former—says the LORD of hosts; And in this place I will give you peace— oracle of the LORD of hosts.”
In the early Church, we find grace and peace as part of a standard greeting to other Christians. But it is not a secular peace. It is a deeply religious one. It is even part of one of the options for the priest’s greeting at the beginning of Mass – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, what is the peace that Christ gives?
It is the peace that is eternal life. It is the joy of salvation. In this time between the two comings of Christ, this peace does not eliminate the trials and tribulations of this life. It does not exempt us from suffering. It does not even completely inoculate us from division within the Church. However, it does give us hope for what is to come. And that hope makes our difficulties easier to bear. Not to mention how the Holy Spirit acts as our consoler.
As Francis Moloney noted, Jesus’ gift of peace leads to a uniting of the faithful person with the Father and the Son. It is far greater than the fragile peace of this world that might come from politics.
We can rest in this peace of Christ. Even as we deal with difficulties, we have this peace. Perhaps we might find ourselves unable to sleep soundly in the boat during a raging storm as the boat takes on water, although Jesus himself had no trouble. But, because of this gift, we can find greater peace even in this life.