- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories Peace Be With You – Freeing and Healing
Sometimes it is hard to hope. The conflicts around the world seem endless. As one winds down, another erupts. At this time, the war in Ukraine absorbs much of our attention. It is hard to imagine the pain of a people facing such death and destruction all around them. The images we have and the accounts we hear make no sense to us. How is it possible to live in such a world? Can we ever find meaning in the midst of it? What has happened to God’s dream for humanity?
There is so much of our lives that is beyond our control, so much to challenge us as we look to the future. Do we cynically, just give up on humanity? Indeed, so often it is hard to hope. Then comes Easter. We face the resurrection. The resurrection was not just about Jesus. With faith, we encounter a new vision, a new creation.
Easter – a season of new life. Celebrating the season of Easter we hear and reflect on a whole series of our faith stories. Easter brings us through the entire history of human salvation, through accounts of creation, liberation, restoration and resurrection. These are stories of many new beginnings, new life, stories of hope.
Through the Easter season, many stories of the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples are set before us. The Gospel of this Sunday (John 20:19-31) offers us a picture of the liberation and healing that comes with the ongoing gift of the Spirit and the presence of the Risen Jesus.
One of the striking elements of the story in John’s Gospel is something that appears as well in other Gospel stories of appearances. It is the greeting that Jesus offers as he comes among the disciples: Peace be with you. Peace can mean many things – absence of war and conflict, quiet and silence, unity and good relations. In the the Gospel stories of the appearances of Jesus peace is an indication of the healing and liberation that comes with the Spirit of the Risen Jesus.
It is no accident that John describes the disciple as locked in a room and cowering in fear. For them there was a great threat that what happened to Jesus would happen to them. They had lost hope, but suddenly they sensed the presence of the Jesus they had lost. His presence and the Spirit stirred in them a new vision. It dispelled fear, freed them from the terror and healed their pain.
With the gift of the Spirit, the disciples came to realize that the message and the mission that Jesus proclaimed was now theirs. The peace that came upon them with the presence of Jesus risen, was theirs to take to the world. Filled with the Spirit they were to liberate, to heal, to bring hope, new hope.
We need Easter’s hope. In his Easter Sunday reflection (April 17, 2022), Franciscan spiritual writer Richard Rohr highlights this need for all humanity: If all is hopeless, we all individually lose hope too. Easter is an announcement of a common hope. When we sing in the Easter hymn that Christ destroyed death, that means death for all of us. It’s not just about Jesus; it’s to humanity that God promises, “Life is not ended, it merely changes,” as we say in the funeral liturgy. That’s what happened in Jesus, and that’s what will happen in us. In the end, everything will be all right.
Sometimes it is hard to hope. Easter offers hope for our world. May the Spirit of the Risen Jesus move us to voice such hope of new life for all humanity. May the blessing of new life and peace come upon us all. In particular, may new peace and new life come upon the people of Ukraine.