Peace be with you

2nd Sunday of Easter

The Post Resurrection accounts of the Risen Lord are extraordinary. They describe a series of encounters between the Jesus and his followers which are filled with mystery. His disciples and friends have a sense that he is in their presence, yet initially they can't be fully sure; he tells them ‘do not touch me’ on occasion, on another occasion he asks for something to eat.

At the end of the Emmaus story, the two disciples don’t realize that it is the Lord who joins them as they walk to the village, until he has left them. It’s then they say:

Did not our hearts burn within us, as he spoke to us along the way, and explained the scriptures to us.”  Luke 24:32.  We then read that ''they recognize him at the Breaking of Bread.' Luke 24:35.

Again there is an intimate account in John 20:15 where Jesus comes to the distressed Mary Magdalene, near the empty tomb, and says to her;

“Woman why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him,

 “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

In all cases, as a result of the encounter, the followers are filled with gladness and hope.

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Since we entered into this alternative way of existing, forced upon us by the pandemic, and practically coinciding with the Season of Lent, leading into Easter, I have been amazed by the way the Scripture readings for the Masses of each day have resonated with our lives in a positive, supportive way.

The appearance account in last Sundays Gospel is no exception: 

After the horrific happenings of Good Friday, it was a fearful time for the disciples. Their world had been thrown into turmoil. Before Good Friday they were so excited and enthralled by their teacher, prophet, healer and friend; they had left their homes and their work to follow him. Now he is brutally snatched from them.

After his death, panic stricken and fearing for their lives, the distraught followers hide away. They find refuge in a room, perhaps the same room in which they celebrated the Passover (the Festival of Freedom), a few days previous. I’m sure that on the night of that Last Supper, the Lord himself endured some of the fear they are now experiencing, very aware at the time that the authorities were plotting against him.

The doors of the room were locked. yet, not unlike many of the other Post Resurrection accounts, the Lord mysteriously appears and stands in their midst.

They are obviously startled, but he immediately sets them at ease: “Peace be with you”.

They are overjoyed with his miraculous appearance; he further reassures them, “Peace be with you”, and then he commissions them to be Spiritual Healers.

 

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any,

they are forgiven them”

 

Thomas, who was absent from the group at the time, when he is told of what had happened, won’t believe:

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,

and put my finger in the mark of the nails

and my hand in his side,

I will not believe.”

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He is skeptical; wants tangible proof. For the majority of people, such proof is elusive, for God is found not visibly, but “in the bits and pieces of everyday life”. The Lord returns a second time to the assembly, and when Thomas is invited to touch the Lord, his doubts are immediately set aside. He exclaims:

“My Lord & My God”.

Jesus issues a gentle reprimand to Thomas:

“Have you believed because you have seen me?

 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

 

The life of the Lord’s followers after the Resurrection is intriguing. A group of people, who are deemed a threat to the religious establishment, and who are now leaderless, find a new lease of life and identity, through living a lifestyle modeled on the teachings and example of Christ, and most importantly aided by a strong sense of his ‘Presence with them’ {‘Absence filled with hidden presence’   John O Donohue}

We’re reminded in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 2:42 – 47 that;

[the community of believers]

devoted themselves to

the apostles” teaching and fellowship,

to the breaking of bread

and the prayers.

 

People became very aware of the unusual and new lifestyle fashioned by ‘Christians’

the “many wonders and signs being done

by the apostles”.

 

“All who believed were together

 and had all things in common;

 they would sell their possessions and goods

and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need”. 

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home

and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God

and having the goodwill of all the people”.

 

This new way of surviving together is enhanced by the 2nd reading from 1 Peter: 1:3-9:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope

 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”..


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People experiencing a “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection” is what Easter is all about.

 

So; on this the 2nd Sunday of Easter, as we navigate our way through uncertainty and danger….

We ourselves:

  • have experienced Fear 
  • We have sensed a ‘living hope’ through the kind and committed efforts of so many 
  • We have experienced a deepened appreciation of community. 
  • Day by day, we break bread at home and eat food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
  • Finally we pray for Inner Peace 

The Responsorial Psalm speaks of “Giving Thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting”

 

I had asked Philippa a few days previous if she would sing during Sunday Eucharist a lovely song composed by her father, Brendan Shine, on this same theme

‘Give Thanks to the Lord’. 

“I thank the Lord in heaven above

for the gifts that he gave to me”.

 

Amazingly, last night I was chatting by phone to my brother Anthony, living in London, and in the course of our conversation he spoke of coming across the writings of a monk, David Steindl-Rast: who has committed his life to promoting a way of living based on Gratitude.

He says that :

Every moment is a gift given

Avail of the opportunity

Act out of a sense of enough.

Live gratefully.

 

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