Pentecost (May 15, 2016)
Of all the things we know about Jesus… through the Scriptures, through the Apostles… I’ve never heard Him repeat Himself without a reason or speak a word without meaning. So in this very short Gospel passage we hear today, we should have perked up a little when Jesus spoke the exact same phrase two times. It wasn’t by accident! The phrase he speaks is, “Peace be with you.” To which every good Catholic should reply, “And with your spirit!” Now if Jesus has a purpose for everything He says, it would behoove us to discern what that purpose is.
Let me refresh your memory as to what happens in John’s Gospel right before the passage we hear today. It’s the Sunday of Jesus’ resurrection. Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and John just discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Jesus then appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her to tell the other disciples that He would be ascending to the Father very soon. By now, the Jewish authorities knew something wasn’t right. They’ve probably heard stories and rumors that the Disciples have somehow tricked people into thinking Jesus has resurrected by stashing His body somewhere. The Disciples were being hunted down for questioning. They were hiding behind closed doors…. full of hope and anticipation…. full of fear of the unknown… perhaps even afraid that they would be crucified next if found.
So there they were… behind locked doors… running around the room like a bunch of preschoolers on a sugar high… not knowing what was going to happen next. Through all of their fears, through all of the commotion, Jesus then stood in their midst and says, “Peace be with you.”
How many times do we allow our lives to spin out of control due to fear and anxiety? How many times do we lose control of reality simply because we don’t know what it going to happen next? How many times do we try and hide behind locked doors rather than confront our fears? In spite of all of our fears and trials that we may be facing, Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that He is the only one who can truly give us peace. We can’t lock Him out. He is ALWAYS in our midst offering us His divine peace.
Our Risen Lord offers us His peace, and then He shares with us the surest way to sustain it. That is where the second, “Peace be with you” phrase comes into play. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
So the surest was to sustain the peace of Jesus Christ is two fold: 1. Go out and spread the joy of the Gospel, and 2. Offer forgiveness.
How does this sustain peace you ask? Let me ask you this: Do you feel more at peace when you talk about death, destruction, evil, and failure OR when you talk about happiness, joy, love and excitement? The Gospel message is the ultimate love story. If you continually talk about and share this love story to others, you will be more at peace even if the world is falling in around you. You see this love story ends with you being embraced by Jesus Himself in heaven. This world is temporary. Heaven is eternal. I don’t know about you, but that gives me peace.
Now, I know there’s at least one person out there thinking, “Sure, that sounds nice. I can do that. I can spread the Gospel message. But what about that whole ‘forgiveness’ thing you mentioned? Listen, You don’t know ‘so and so’ because I’ll never forgive what they did to me.” Sound familiar to anyone??
Yup, I said the surest way to sustain the peace of Jesus Christ is TWO fold. Spread the joy of the Gospel AND offer forgiveness. Don’t worry… I feel your pain! There have been a few people in my life that I swore I’d never forgive and it ate at me for YEARS. Interestingly, it was in the confessional that a priest pointed out that the only one that this was hurting was myself. So through much prayer, I forgave these people and the weight that was lifted off of my shoulders was unbelievable. The hate in my heart was replaced with peace and joy.
To be clear, me forgiving them doesn’t mean I have to interact with them again. It means that I can move on to bigger and better things rather than reliving past hurts. And that, my brothers and sisters, leads to peace.
Yes, it’s intimidating to spread the Gospel message in a world full of sin.
Yes, it’s hard to offer forgiveness.
But take heart…the Holy Spirit will help us, strengthen us and guide us…if we let Him in.
Let us all continue to strive for true and lasting peace by spreading the Good News of the Gospel and by offering forgiveness to others.
Peace be with you!