PDF of the Congregation's Letter
The Congregation clearly highlights what they consider to be errors: priest or people leaving their places, the offering of congratulations or condolences instead of peace. It seems clear that the Sign of Peace is an important (but ultimately optional) rite, so it is worthy of our reflection so we don't make too much or too little of it. I think every week we simultaneously fall into both errors.
|This is baseball, not the Sign of Peace|
On the other hand, we have the error of insufficiency (again, my term). If our focus during the Sign of Peace is solely our friends and family, that's nice but it misses the point. Our focus should be on our enemies, those who have something against us. Our focus should be on people who in all likelihood aren't even at Mass with us. Jesus tells us "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5:23-24). Before we approach the altar of the Lord, we need to be at peace with our brothers and sisters. That is the purpose of the Sign of Peace. Therefore, when we offer the Sign of Peace to those physically near us at Mass, we should do an interior self-check: Is there anyone who, if they offered me a sign of peace, I couldn't return the gesture and mean it? If the Husseins, the bin Ladens, the giants of evil in our day, walked into this church and wanted to be reconciled to God and to you, could you do it. If the one who has hurt you most deeply - the spouse, parent, or child who abandoned you, the friend who betrayed you - walked into your church and wanted to be reconciled, could you offer that person the Sign of Peace? If we don't pray about that during the Sign of Peace but instead focus on how many handshakes we can get in, then we have fallen into the error of insufficiency.
|Peaceful, and they didn't even leave their pews|