“Peace Be With You”
In his beautiful homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, Father Hanly reminds us: “When we don’t know what to do, when we feel maybe that even God has abandoned us, it is Jesus who comes to us. And he just appears.”
Readings for Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
- First Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
- Second Reading: First John 2:1-5
- Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
During the Sundays after Easter, it’s very common that the gospels are always another Resurrection story, and today we have St. Luke. This story is a little different from the others, but it depends very much on the gospel of John. The two of them found similarities in the stories.
Now you must remember that after the Resurrection of Jesus and all these things occurred, there were many, many months and even years that passed, and the best of the Resurrection stories were kept by the whole community of people and they were shared out, and what the evangelists did was they picked the ones that they felt were the ones that they wanted to emphasize.
So what you have in the Resurrection story of Luke is what Luke thinks is very important for all Christians to remember. And, because the gospel writers were key people, to this very day these are the stories that are kept and treasured and, each time, after each year, after the Easter festival, we tell these stories once again.
Luke is the only writer in the Old and New Testaments of our sacred scriptures that is a non-Jew. He himself was a gentile and he was a disciple of St. Paul. And so when we hear these stories we can actually visualize St. Paul telling these stories to his little convert for the first time, and Luke, being a wonderful writer, would write them down.
This reading begins, the one according to Luke…
Luke has only one story that talks about Jesus and his disciples. The other writers talk about various incidents of when Jesus met his disciples after the Resurrection. But for Luke this is the one and only time that Jesus speaks to all of his disciples gathered in the upper room the very day of his Resurrection. So that means that every word is quite important and every word is carefully chosen so that the people would know that the Lord has risen and the world has changed.
And this is the way he begins:
“While they were still speaking about this…” The two disciples on the road who had met Jesus, had spoken with him and didn’t recognize him until he broke the bread in front of them. And, of course, that reminded them of the Eucharistic sacrifice that had already become a custom at the time this story was told among all Christians.
“While they were still speaking about this, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
You must remember, they were up in the upper room with the doors locked out of fear that those who arrested Jesus and ultimately crucified him would now hunt them down as well.
They were people who had a memory of a great hope and the hope was dashed on Good Friday when Jesus, their Lord and their Messiah, was ruthlessly nailed to a cross and crucified. And they knew that he had been buried in a grave.
And so, for them, there was no future left for all their hopes, for that the Messiah would create a new way of living, a new world, and the old would be placed as a secondary kind of history, because what mattered is that God had come and his son had changed the world.
But how were they to feel when they saw him so ruthlessly murdered on a tree?
And so they were full of despondency and they were full of guilt.
And the reason they were full of guilt was they all ran away except for his mother and John and Mary Magdalene and a few women. And they had not seen him. And they wondered what they would do if they went out to look for him and find him because the rumour was about from the two disciples that he was still alive.
This is a wonderful passage from Luke because Luke lets us know that Jesus seeks us out when we are troubled with doubts about ourselves, the world in which we live, our painful lives, all of these things. When we don’t know what to do, when we feel maybe that even God has abandoned us, it is Jesus who comes to us. And he just appears.
He appears in their midst and the first words he says are: “Peace. Peace be with you.”
What kind of peace?
Not man’s peace. Our peace is just a cessation of wars while we get ready for the next one. We get tired of destroying each other and wait for a few years and then all begins again.
The peace that Jesus speaks of is the shalom, the great shalom from the book of Genesis, when God created the world and had he finished the world, he created it and rested on that final day. And that was the Shalom of God that, ever since, all men and women seek for in the depths of their heart, a harmony between God and man, a harmony that is so deep that there is an end to war, there is only caring and mutual forgiving, sharing, and a new world that God really intended gradually comes into being.
And so when Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you,” he doesn’t mean just that peace be in your hearts which are now aching for peace, but you are to go through the whole world and understand that the peace of God is the peace that we must bring to all the nations, not just the small tribe of Hebrews who struggled all those centuries to keep the hope of shalom alive.
Now Jesus tells his disciples, not only do I give you this peace, but you are to bring it to all people.
And what is this peace?
Well, we think this peace is sort of an organized effort to control ourselves a little bit. Or it’s a kind of a thing. It’s a kind of a quality of life. It’s a kind of something intangible, but it can be built as long as we all cooperate with God.
Well, this is not what it is at all.
His peace is himself. His peace is a person. His peace is God.
It’s not a thing to be organized or dragging people to get together and say, “Well now let’s have the peace of God.”
It means Jesus says, “You thought I was dead, but my father has raised me from the dead that you might know that I will never leave you. I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. Open your hearts and let me come in. And when I am with you, and when you turn to me in your troubles…”
That’s why he says, “Why are you troubled? I am here.” Even so much that he says, “I am not a ghost.” A ghost is an airy, fairy thing that floats around in men’s imaginations.
And Jesus died and rose again, and is now with you, all days, even to the consummation of the world.
Now, many began to doubt and feel “What can this mean? How can this be?”
And he sits down and he explains it to them.
And because they’ve just finished a meal, he asks for something to eat and they give him a piece of baked fish and he eats it.
And then, of course, the memory of who they were. They were those who loved Jesus, who left everything to follow Jesus, who walked with him, sat in the evenings and listened to him, who saw him rejected, who saw him and the people who he met fall in love with him because of his gentle, forgiving kindness, his compassion. And they knew that this was a man who was more than a man because the acts that he did came from the heart of God himself.
And so when he took the little bit of meal that they offered, they remembered the Last Supper, where he told them that they must learn to love, and if they learn to love as he loves, and to give as he gives, and to lay their lives down as he laid his life down, then they would experience the reality of God in their lives. Then they would have something to give when they went out into the world, because they’d say, “The great gift that we bear is sharing the life of Jesus, the Son of God.”
And so it was that they became extremely joyful and happy. And Jesus continued to teach them and he taught them great lessons.
And one of the great lessons was that pain is not your enemy. Pain is something that, with me beside you, we can endure together, and it will shape you into what you in your very hearts want to become: people who face up to the difficulties of life, who are armed in order to turn those difficulties into great value. To accept things, to overcome things, to drive back the evil selfishness that seems to rule the world, and make way, through your difficulties and pain and struggle, to make way for the great peace of God to enter into.
The trouble with the world today is not that it’s bad or not that it’s good. The trouble with the world today is it’s so cluttered. It’s so cluttered that people have forgotten how simple life is and this is what Jesus has come to teach us.
Do you want to know what life is?
Love one another. Care for each other. Sacrifice for each other. And then you will know that God is with you and will carry you forth, and you need to be afraid of nothing, not even death. For there is no death in God, there’s a transition from life to life.
And this is the message that he gives, and Luke gives, because Luke is someone whose whole life finally found in the Hebrew people the beginning of a responsible answer to all the questions and the pain of his own hungers and heartfelt feelings. And he found them in the Jewish people, and, through them, he found them in Jesus. And now he is telling us all today what it means to be a Christian.
Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms, all the hopes of the people down through the centuries who bore the presence of the God, my father, with them. These now are fulfilled.”
And he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, “It is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you, my brothers and sisters, you are the emissaries. You are the ones who, in your lives, bear witness to these great realities.”
And the great reality is there is only love, only peace, only grace, and these are the things that you have been gifted with. Not for yourselves, but to share them with each other.