In his Letter to the Magnesians (ca. A.D. 110), St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote:
Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest.
Some years ago, during a preaching course, a classmate began the proclamation of the Gospel with these words:
Peace be with you.
Now before proceeding, you should know that “practicum” courses such as those designed around preaching, public prayer, and the celebration of the sacraments are meant as “laboratories” whereby professor and fellow students have the opportunity to observe a future deacon proclaim the Gospel, preach, minister at the altar, and celebrate baptisms, weddings, and funerals. To help facilitate the experience, an altar, baby dolls, caskets, and virtually any other object used within a “real” liturgical setting are made available. In the end, the aspiring deacon is critiqued at many levels by the professor and his fellow students. Although constructive and helpful, I must say that, in my mind, I always thought of them as courses in humility (e.g., HUM 101, 102, etc.).
In returning to my classmate’s story, he had no sooner uttered the words, “Peace be with you,” when the professor stopped him and declared that unless he were a bishop, he should not continue. A bit flustered, he began again.
The Lord be with you.
On this Third Sunday of Easter, we once again encounter the Risen Lord in St. Luke’s Gospel (Lk 24:35-48). After “the two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread,” St. Luke informs us that Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Despite this, those present were said to have been startled and terrified, acting as though they had seen a ghost. As he had for Thomas, Jesus invited them to touch him and see. For, “a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
Last evening, I had the privilege of serving the Confirmation Mass at my parish. At the Greeting, I stood next to the bishop as he proclaimed those awesome words of peace. I truly felt Christ’s presence. After the homily, I then held the Sacred Chrism as he conferred the sacrament upon each confirmand: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” After the celebration of Eucharist, the final blessing was upon us. Quickly, my words flowed:
Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.