Peace and forgiveness – these are the two related thoughts that come to me in today’s scripture readings. The gospel reading begins on the evening of that first Easter, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. I find it striking that the disciples are together, albeit meeting behind locked doors. Having been scattered at the time of Jesus’ arrest, and with Jesus having been crucified, one would have thought that they would have fled back to the refuge of Galilee, back to their homes and away from the awful events of the past few days. Instead, they have regrouped, finding refuge and strength in one another, and probably sharing their shame and guilt at having deserted Jesus. They remain alert, fearful and undoubtedly uncertain of where to go from here when suddenly Jesus stands among them.
Now by human standards, or at least my standards, one would expect Jesus to make reference to their behavior these last few days, remind them of their frailty perhaps, or at least make some remark about their failure. Jesus does nothing of the kind. Instead, he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Jesus is not preoccupied with their past failures, he is interested in their present. He wants them to know that all is well between himself and them. He doesn’t ignore what has happened, he showed them his hands and his side, but he does not dwell on it and especially he is not in the blame game. He invites them to move on with quiet hearts and peaceful spirits. ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Once again, peace.
However, this is to be an active peace, not a peace of quiet solitude, or of retirement from the business of life; rather, his peace is a peace of heart and spirit that will impel them to go out into the messiness of life and there to do what he has done, to be agents of God’s peace and forgiveness. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them….’ The mission continues, the kingdom draws ever nearer. Jesus is saying to them and to us, forgive, be merciful, be for others as I am for you. Do not live life with recriminations and guilt; acknowledge your failures, seek forgiveness and then continue on as witnesses of my forgiveness and my peace. Extend my forgiveness to everyone in your lives, everyone with whom you share life, and in doing so you will share my peace as well.
We call to mind that today the universal Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday, drawing our attention to God’s loving mercy in a special way and inviting us more insistently into living his mercy in our lives. First we avail ourselves of God’s mercy and then we extend that mercy to others. May the peace and forgiveness of Easter reign in all our hearts, today and every day.
Fr Charlie Broderick