Peace of Christ

We see from today’s Gospel that the disciples were still filled with fear for their lives when the resurrected Lord first appeared to them. There is no doubt that this fear was not just of the Jews who had opposed

For Sunday, May 28th, 2023

Reading

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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.”

John 20:19-23

Reflection

We see from today’s Gospel that the disciples were still filled with fear for their lives when the resurrected Lord first appeared to them. There is no doubt that this fear was not just of the Jews who had opposed their Lord. They are said to rejoice at the Lord’s appearance only after he speaks peace to them and shows them his wounds to assure them that it is really he—and not merely a ghost. Having gone from their sight for a little while, as he had told them on the eve of his passion, he now appeared to them and began to give them the promised Holy Spirit. 

It is perhaps startling that he so quickly gets down to business with them. He has returned not merely to live among them in the same form as before. Instead, he immediately gives them his peace and reminds them that because they are connected to him, they are connected to his Father. As the Son was sent by the Father, so too are they sent by the Son—and they will have the same Holy Spirit with them so that they too can offer the forgiveness of sins. They are sent to be the mediators of the one Mediator between God and Man—the ones who will bring the good news to a broken world that heaven is now open. They will teach the world about the life-giving words of Jesus. They will bring the peace that he is so insistent on bringing to them. 

It is a marvelous scene but also a touching one. Given that all of them (save John) had completely abandoned or even denied him in his hour of greatest need, one might think that a good scolding might be the first thing he gave them. Instead, it is his peace. That they fell prey to fear did not mean that the Evil One had taken them. He had prayed that his Father would keep them from that. And his prayers were answered. Now he has returned, and he is both gentle with them as well as commanding. They were weak, but he will be their strength. They are frightened, but he will make them not afraid. They had left him, but he has not left them at all. He still wants their friendship and their service.

In your prayer today, meditate upon the times when you have abandoned or denied the Lord. How did he appear to you afterward? How did he give you peace? How did he stand you back up on your feet? If you have spiritual responsibility for others—children, students, catechumens, friends—ask the Lord to give you that same peace-giving and challenging way of bringing others to Christ and Christian maturity. 

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