By Rev Ivan McElhinney
The scene depicted in the Palm Sunday Gospel is simple and moving - and very familiar - and the word ‘PEACE’ is written over it.
Zechariah chapter 9, quoted by the Evangelists in describing this triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, contains a message of pacifism and disarmament. The prophet envisages the Messiah entering the Holy City on a donkey - the beast of peace, as distinct from the war horse!
Then the last will and testament of Jesus to his disciples in the Upper Room was the promise of a peace which the world could neither give nor take away from them.
WB Yeats, in his poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, expresses the human longing for peace:
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made
Nine bean rows will I have there and a hive for the honey-bee
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.”
A romantic dream of peace which the poet imagines he could find by leaving the city for an idyllic lonely place. However legitimate that quest may be at times of great pressure, the peace here described is not the peace promised by Jesus Christ.
Indeed for Jesus to promise peace at all is in some ways strange!
He warned his followers to expect conflict and to take up their own cross in order to follow him.
Tumult and trouble raged around our Lord and opposition met him everywhere so there is nothing superficial or cheap about the tremendous offer he makes to us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (John chapter 14 verse 27)
This peace is totally realistic and rooted in this world as it is with all its pain and contradiction and suffering. It is a peace that we can hold on to even as we face the struggles of life and seek to keep the faith.
To possess the peace of God will often mean that we are not at ease with injustice, prejudice or any unchristian thing. Jesus had serenity beyond measure and it enabled him to resolutely face the Cross with the stillness of eternity in his heart. His promise is that his peace may also be ours and it will prepare us to face the powers of evil with serenity and confidence.
May this great peace of Christ be with you during Holy Week, Easter and always.