SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
The short reading from the Acts of the Apostles today paints a very idyllic picture of the Christian life. We read it and we say, “Yes, that’s the way things should be!” The people devoted themselves to the Apostles’ instructions. They lived a communal life and shared all things in common. They broke the Bread together and they prayed. They lived in a reverent fear. They lived with exultant and sincere hearts and continually praised God. That’s the way the Christian Life should be!
But the gospel reading takes all our Easter idealism, our delight in the Risen Savior, and applies a sobering dose of reality. The reading, as well as our experience of life in the Church and our life in the everyday world, reminds us that the message of Christ comes to us in the midst of our real world and in the midst of our real lives. The Easter message comes to us while there is war and terrorism on all sides, while politicians and jurists argue over the meaning of life, and while natural disasters can hit our country at any time. And only God and each of us knows what is going on in our own hearts and in our lives.
The liturgies of these days are full of ‘Alleluias’ and ‘Rejoices’ and we do not always feel like joining the party. Is the liturgy just forcing things or are we just in the wrong place? But, look at the gospel today! The gospel account speaks of locked doors, of secret meetings by night, and it speaks of fear. It is not an image that speaks initially of peace; nor does the presence of One whose body is marked by the signs of torture and death. Yet, when Jesus enters the room each time, his words are, “Peace be with you!”
The Risen Christ came to his disciples in the midst of their turmoil and fear. He came in the midst of their doubt and their sense of having failed both him and their own selves. And he said to them, “Peace be with you!” And when he had said this he showed them his wounds – the holes in his hands and his side – as if to say, “See these wounds – feel them and know that it is all right to hurt. Pain comes to us all – I was hurt as all people are hurt – but that pain and that hurt no longer control me. I now live, as I said I would. I told you that I would suffer, and that you, if you followed me, would also suffer. And in following me, you will not leave your personal sufferings and pains behind. But if you do follow me, you will live with me. You will live with my life.”
On that evening of the first day of the week, Jesus came to his disciples and showed them that he lived despite the worst that could happen. The peace that Jesus offers is a peace that endures despite everything. Jesus’ resurrection appearance, with the wounds in his hands and feet and side, showed that Jesus’ life and promises would endure. His “peace be with you” was more than a greeting to be followed by another “good-bye.” It was a declaration of a persistent fact. Because Jesus lives, nothing can separate his followers from him and from life in him.
There is war and terrible suffering in the world. Death and sickness and evil touch us at different times. But our faith is in the word of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and shown to us to be of God, through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. God’s love for us will never die. It will endure beyond anything that the world can promise. Jesus says to us, as he said to the disciples on the way to Gethsemane, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Believe in God, believe also in me.”