The fruit of peace is, obviously, a fruit. It is the result of something, not something with which to start, we cannot take it and have it in our hands. You have to enter a process, understanding the term well; the name comes from the ancient greek Ειρήνη (Eirene), with the literal meaning of “peace, and for us irenic means precisely peaceful. The term is used in the New Testament, by Paul in his letters to the Galatians, but in its Greek acceptation in a sense slightly different from what we can think about it. It is surprising to note that the only peace conceived in the Hellenic world is absence of war. It is therefore opposed to the state of war. For us, it is a personal state.
There are many things in our civilization derived from Christianity, and therefore from the novelty Jesus brought to the world, something that was already conceived in Jewish culture. In fact the well-known word shalom does not mean simply absence of war; it is a much more complicated and personal concept; it is the idea of abundance, of a good relationship with the things, of being in the world in flourishing manner. Moreover, it is said that shalom is necessarily absence of conflict, but in the ancient primitive meaning it can be also a well-set war.
How have we reached our concept of peace as a state of mind? From the Old Testament, we must make a leap to the Gospel of John, where we find the phrase “I leave you peace, I give you my peace. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” And in the liturgy we repeat this request to receive Christ’s peace. A comparison between two different types of peace is rooted in culture: one given by the world, that of merely a truce between one war and another one. If we examine the amount of peace treaties in history, we would get discouraged thinking it may be possible to follow this path internationally. In the world you get to the end of the conflict either through these treaties which last a limited lapse or time, or worse, with the devastation of the enemy. Peace is reached only when one of the parties is defeated.
After a separation between two spouses, for example, a state of peace is reached, but it is daughter to the death of a relationship. Too many times peace is eliminating the problem, but what may seem to be serenity is simply the necrosis of a situation. The principle due to which people do not tread each other’s toes is nothing but a hypocritical treaty of non-aggression, in which we no longer tell each other what we really think. In fact, I can be at peace only through reconciliation. Yet, whether there are a lot of peace, there are only a few men of peace.
“Not as the world gives it” Jesus said. The context does not give me peace, this is Christ’s novelty. It comes from his gift, he gives it to us. It means that I can have it even if I do not live in a peaceful context. In the letter to the Ephesians it is written well: Christ breaks down the wall of separation. Being with him, and therefore in peace, is my ability to speak with those who have an issue with me. Knowing how to search – with warmth and involvement, and plenty, that is in the original Hebrew acceptation of the word – the way to leave my sacrifice altar and walk the path of reconciliation. This is peace.