But what do they mean?
Peace is not the absence of war. It is more than that. Peace is a state of being.
Peace is a condition whereby we are free of fear, real or imagined. Where we have no concerns or worries, either about ourselves or our loved ones. Peace is when we are in total harmony in our relationships.
On the face of it, peace seems an impossible goal to achieve. Because we all, at one time or another, fear something.
Fear is wisdom in the face of danger. If we were to be met by a lion, or if we were at some great risk, then fear is warranted to make us deal with the situation. Whereas imagined fear is foolishness in the face of unrealities. We think that something bad will happen, we dwell on it in our minds, and we fear it to the point of paralysis.
Fear is not the only enemy of peace. Constant concerns and worries can wear us down too and rob us of the calm we yearn for.
However, the worst adversary to our peace is our relationships with others. Very few people would claim that they are in perfect harmony with relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbours and other people in their lives. We all have broken links in our chain of associations which not only distance us from our relationships but are also contrary to Christ's teaching.
Jesus said, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23).
Of all the obstacles to peace, our broken relationships are the ones which we will be most answerable for when we meet God face to face.
What is the point of praying "forgive our sins as we forgive others" if we don't really mean it?
Admittedly, some broken relationships may be impossible to repair for one reason or another. But this should not be for lack of trying.
"Peace be with you" is an attainable gift, otherwise Jesus would not have offered it, time and again, to His disciples and followers; and to you and me.
But we should want to receive that peace. We should yearn for it, and treasure it whenever we receive it, however fleetingly and short-lived.
We achieve this through prayer. However difficult it might be when we are in turmoil; whenever we are struck by fear, worries and concerns, or ill-feelings towards others.
Christ's peace, through the Holy Spirit, is yours for the asking. Seek it, pray for it, and treasure it.
Peace be with you.