Image: Damascus Gate, Jeruslaem
"Kia ora koutoa”.(literally, may you have life.) That’s a standard Maori greeting which has a minimum of literal meaning but conveys general feelings of goodwill. Other languages have similar greetings. Hawaiians use “Aloha” and Jews, “Shalom”. Literally, ‘ora’ means life, ‘aloha’ means love, and ‘shalom’ means peace. The deeper implication of such a phrase in the choice of these words says more about its place in social values than its literal meaning.
Peace is up there with ‘love’ and ‘life’ as one of the most desirable indicators of what matters most for a race of people, whether or not they are coexisting peacefully with their family or neighbours, or neighbouring countries. Deep down, it’s what matters most.
At one stage while Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers stood outside wanting to speak with him. Apparently he let them wait unnoticed until someone told him they were waiting for him. He replied, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” A heavenly kingdom with a heavenly family took precedence over the earthly equivalents!
No doubt sometimes, there were strained relationships in Joseph and Mary’s household and Jesus would take his place within the tensions of family squabbles. Like the Jewish greeting, this sense of peace goes deeper. It is an inner quality of being more than not scrapping with others, but being at peace with oneself. With the recent thoughts about righteousness in mind, Jesus may have recalled a vivid passage in one of the Psalms which says:
‘Loving-kindness and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed’.
The kind of peace which Jesus desires for the people around him is that which is based on doing what is right and what is just. This may at times require getting angry at injustice. Once, Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and with an improvised whip drove out all those who were buying and selling in its courts. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves and told them: It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robbers’ den’. He was angry.
Neither of these incidents detracts from Jesus seeing himself as ‘the Prince of Peace’; someone who could bring peace to people who were disturbed, and angry, and upset, and violent. He wanted to bring peace to situations which needed calm, and this was understood so well in his community that peace stories began to emerge.
One had him asleep in the bottom of a boat at sea in a storm when any ordinary person would be ill with worry and seasickness. The disciples interpreted this relaxation as lack of concern for their welfare. His response was to say, “Peace be still” to the storm and it died down. Every sailboat could benefit from such a passenger!
This inner peace, which we all need but is best recognized in us by others, depends basically on feeling right with God. Then we can start to mend disturbed relationships. Jesus said to the crowd: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called God’s sons. In this way we can do God’s work. “E rangimarie; ki a koe”. (Peace be to you.)
Tune: Kingsfold. Firmly.
‘May you have life!’ ‘May you have Peace!’ ‘May you have Love!’ mean the same
In the context of greeting in different tongues, ‘G’day Mate’ is like ‘In God’s name’.
Our Lord describes, as the peace he brings, something more than in distance and time,
With an internal calmness, acceptance, and joy; not easy to find, but sublime.
Except when disturbed by injustice or greed or selfish, cruel, conceit;
Jesus felt such distress in the Temple one day with the money-men spread round his feet.
He made up a whip, caused some tables to flip, and drove out the thieving scum,
“God's temple for prayer, not a shop,” he declared… And more work was yet to be done.
It’s when we work with God for peace, that our flag can be unfurled,
God sees it as his work and us, with him; and it’s starting to change the world.
It’s the ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ we observed some short time ago,
It really is needed for life to succeed in the way it’s designed to go.