Homily: God’s Peace Can Be With You
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears in the midst of His frightened and cowering disciples and says Peace”.
The first thing that we notice is the amazing effect His presence and His words have on his confused and fearful disciples. They have been hiding, completely immobilized by the terrible realization of the death of their beloved leader.
He addresses them cheerfully with the standard greeting: “Shalom” — “Peace.” Under normal circumstances, this greeting simply would mean that someone is wishing another well. But it means far more than that now, when spoken by the risen Jesus to them.
The disciples feel that their world is out of control. Jesus is assuring them that this is not the case. In fact, He is there to offer them the gift of deep and unshakable confidence forever! In spite of dire appearances, all is well.
Why? Because Jesus now can offer them His Spirit. His Holy Spirit has the ability to enter into the deepest recesses of their souls, their being, and can make Jesus more truly present to them than he ever was when they knew him in the flesh.
Jesus would not only be WITH them; He would be IN them. Jesus would make Himself completely a part of their being. They would feel HIS confidence; they would experience His Peace of Soul.
Jesus offers the same Spirit to you and me also. The Spirit can make Jesus wonderfully present to us as well. This is this same Spirit Who convinces us of the love of God for us and, to the extent that we know that, we have nothing to fear.
Remember from the Old Testament, it tells us in the first book of Samuel how God took His good spirit from King Saul and gave it to King David. It doesn’t mean that literally, of course. But God decided that David was to be the new king, and King Saul lost confidence that God was with him.
The consequence was dramatic. Saul would slip deeper and deeper into darkness and despair, while David seemed to lead a charmed life, even in spite of his sins and tragedies. In fact, David became the model of the Messiah to come, and has been a favorite subject for sculptors and painters ever since.
We are told that Thomas the Apostle was not there to receive the Spirit with the others, and so he could not trust the good news that the other disciples shared with him. However, when he met Jesus later, everything changed; and Thomas allowed Jesus from that time on, to become the center of his life.
Notice how true it is: that, the witness of others is always important; but nothing can replace a personal encounter with the Lord.
You need not look far in this world or ours today to encounter attitudes of cynicism and distrust. Of course, we should avoid becoming gullible or naïve. But we must at all cost learn how to become trusting human beings.
The Risen Lord offers us His Spirit and, if we open our hearts to that most wonderful of all gifts, we too, will be able to trust when it is fitting to do so. Most of all, we will trust God’s promises, which tell us, in essence, that we can come to know what it means to share in the very life of Jesus, if we willing to dare to be kind and thoughtful and loving in a world that is too often thoughtless and cruel.
We really can’t be trusting without the help of God. But with that help we can avoid the terrible pessimism of Saul and acquire the positive, hopeful spirit of David. This is the Easter Spirit. It’s found everywhere in the Psalms, which have been attributed to David, because the authors of these beautiful prayers were all people like David, with a positive and hopeful outlook.
A special gift of the Spirit is the confidence and freedom that allows us to forgive others. Life is just too short for holding grudges or for nursing old injuries. And when we let go of these burdens we can enter more and more into the joy and generosity of the Spirit and into the spirit of Easter. Then we will not only be free to face the future with courage, but we will also become a much more pleasant companion to those who are making the wonderful journey of Life with us.
So, get over being fearful. And get ready to let the Spirit of Jesus and of Easter in. Become a truly forgiving person. And begin to enjoy truly living the life of the Risen Jesus. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.