God’s Peace Be With You
God’s peace be with you. In his homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B, Father Hanly shows us life is worth living, with all its difficulties, with all its pain, because Jesus is there and what he gives us is peace.
First Reading: Acts 4:32-35
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: First John 5:1-6
Gospel: John 20:19-31
This is a fairly incredible Gospel. It’s quite short, but it has within it an incredible amount of meaning for Christians everywhere.
It was mentioned at the beginning that one of the things we find in our world today is the doubting that goes on, not just in the church but everything is brought into question. And it seems to us old-timers that the true solid straight and narrow path has kind of got a little crooked and bounced around a bit.
On the other hand, if you listen now, and I’ll try to do this not too long, quickly read this Gospel, bit by bit, I think you might understand what an overwhelming gift this Gospel is to us who love Jesus.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
This is John. The first day of the week doesn’t mean Sunday. The first day of the week means the new week, the new era, the new beginning. Everything that is in the past, we lay it aside, for it is the first day of a new life.
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
They were the enemy, and their leader, Jesus, was crucified, and they were afraid there would be a manhunt for all his disciples, so they hid up in the upper room where they had eaten the Last Supper.
Jesus came and stood in their midst
How did he come?
Well, the doors were locked and the windows were closed, but suddenly he was there.
And the first thing he says to them…
Remember now, the last time they saw him, he had said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Then he had said, “It is finished,” and he died on the cross.
His first words to them are these:
“Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you. We use the word peace quite commonly. We think of war and peace, and we think of “Let’s be peaceful about this,” and “Become a peaceful people,” and all the rest of it.
But this has nothing to do with Jesus’ peace. Jesus is out to announce a new world.
And what Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” he means God, “God be with you,” because to have God with you is to have peace.
Peace is not just something, it is not something that men and women sit around and discuss. For God, peace means God Himself. God is our peace. The Father is our peace. Jesus is our peace. The Holy Spirit is our peace.
So what Jesus is saying is that when he says, “Peace be with you,” he means recognise that God Himself is with you, and we are going to begin a new way of looking at the world and addressing the world. And that’s what he wants you to know.
The next thing he does is, after he announces God’s peace, it is God’s gift of Himself, it’s the gift of love, one with each other, one with him, one with our own selves, is now accomplished, because God is with us.
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
This also strikes us as being strange. Why?
Because the wounds of his hands and the wounds of his side are hardly things that you would bring up at the announcement of a new way of looking at life. But Jesus says, and he shows them his hands with nail holes and his side that was torn by the sword.
And then we hear
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Seeing is very, very important in the Gospels. To see is not only to see with your eyes. To see is to see with your heart. And most people walk around just seeing with their eyes and miss all of reality, because until you start seeing with your heart, the meaning of things that you live each day, you will never understand who God Himself is.
The wounds on his side: there’s an old saying that God Himself is the wounded deer, the wounded Lord, as Jesus was, where Jesus Himself is God and Jesus is God’s Son, who has come to teach us that God Himself is wounded.
And he carries his wounds, instead of out of fear, he carries them in honour, because they represent something that’s very important: that God Himself heals us and saves us by sending His only Son, who gives his life totally and completely to us. And in the end, he has the wounds to show that his love is everlasting.
And so the disciples rejoice when they see the Lord, and then
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And that’s the beginning of the church.
And what are you supposed to bring?
Are you supposed to bring very complicated organisations etc, etc, etc?
No. You’re supposed to bring peace.
God’s peace. And that means with you, carrying with you, God Himself. And you bring Him in how you live, and how you act, and how you do, and what you believe in, and what you hold dear, and the fullness of life, you bring all of that.
And you bring Him to people like who?
The people who are in need.
Are in need of what?
Are in need of love, are in need of caring, are in need of feeding, are in need of so many things.
And who are you to carry there?
Jesus. For Jesus walks with you, he talks with you, he works with you. He is inseparable from you.
And that is why we are called the community of saints, the community of hope. Not to be better than anybody else. We are called the community of saints, because we aspire to bring about the life of God Himself, here and now, in our homes, with each other, and also to reach out to all others that we come in contact with.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
It sounds like you have to go a long distance.
All you have to do is look at the person next to you and realise you are sent to each other.
Sent to do what?
To love, care, hold and sacrifice for.
And the final gift, the third gift:
he breathed on them
Do you know what breathing upon…
Do you remember the one place in the Bible where breathing upon somebody was important?
It was when God gave life to the clay, and Adam was born.
So what he is saying, “I am giving you a new way and a new life. And it is the same as something entirely new. You have been made new, because God is with you and walks with you. He breathes upon you.”
And then he says these lovely words:
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
One with the Father, one with Jesus, and one with the Holy Spirit, open your hearts and
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Now forgiveness is another word that troubles us. We think of forgiveness as saying, “I’m sorry.” Just like we think of mercy as having pity.
Now you already know that mercy, that word is badly phrased. That word doesn’t mean to have pity on us. God does not pity us. He comes to live with us and take up residence within us, and that is what His mercy is. We need Him and He’s ready to live with us. It is not an act of pity going on in this one.
And now we have forgiveness. What is it to forgive?
To forgive doesn’t mean to say, “I’m sorry for doing something wrong.”
Forgiveness is what God has. God forgives, Jesus forgives, and we forgive.
And what does that kind of forgiveness mean?
It means it’s a state of being.
It doesn’t mean just, “Oh well, I’m sorry.”
It’s a state of being. It means you’re ready to forgive everything, everywhere, every time, because only forgiveness can bring us back to a normal state where we actually become agents of God in this world.
You cannot hold grudges. You cannot think badly.
What you must do is be like Jesus: forgive, forgive, forgive.
The Jews always said this: they said the perfection of God is not all the wonders He can do, the perfection of God is in His forgiving.
Man can’t forgive, but God always forgives, all the time, never holds grudges, never holds anything against us, never judges us. We judge ourselves. We see the Holy Spirit and whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.
And now we come to the third part: Thomas the Doubter.
Didymus means twin. He was a twin.
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
And what was Thomas doing?
Probably he was banging his head against a wall. He abandoned Jesus when he needed him. He began to feel that the whole thing was nonsense. He began to feel that somehow or other there was something terribly wrong, and what he had believed in and worked for and gave himself to, had all fallen apart on Calvary and there was no hope.
And so he kind of sheepishly turned up one week later.
the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
See that word “seeing” — “We have seen the Lord.”
They didn’t mean with their eyes. They meant with their heart, for his presence was overwhelming.
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
And then you will think that when he finally followed and he saw Jesus, he felt whether or not he was going to be forgiven, though we mentioned before God forgives, He doesn’t wait for us to forgive or ask for forgiveness, He forgives.
And he walked over to Thomas and he knew what had happened.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Have faith. You’ve got to have faith otherwise it doesn’t work. You’ve got to have faith.
Poor old Thomas already had faith. He was probably weeping. And he gave God, he gave Jesus the instant of the highest honour, and he said,
“My Lord and my God!”
And then he knew that what used to be in his head, swirling around (how to do this, how to do that, will we win, will we lose, will we whatever), had changed to: What is your heart telling you? Do you love him enough to give your life away to him? Will you take care of the gift that he gives you? Will you be the kind of person that he himself is, because you walk with him and talk with him and now you’ve got to learn to act like him?
And all these things took place in the upper room.
And Thomas, poor doubting Thomas, became one of the great twelve apostles going through the whole world.
And what did they preach?
They said, “I have seen the Lord.”
Where have you seen him?
“I have seen him in my heart, and I know he is there, and I know he walks with me, and I know he is part of my life, and I know that times will be difficult but they will not drive me away, they will only make my love burn, because the love is from God, just as the gift of His love has been given to us.
It is God that we share with each other, because we share this: we are destined to live for all eternity, but, most of all, we are destined to feel that life is worth living, with all its difficulties, with all its pain, because Jesus is there and what he gives us is peace.
Peace be with you, and always be with you.