By F. Luis Casasus, General Superior of idente missionaries
Commentary on the Sunday Gospel of 23-4-2017, Second Sunday of Easter (Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47; First Letter of Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31)
Jesus always took symbols and traditions from Jewish culture to communicate in an understandable way his message: Passover celebrations, fasting, immersing in water, teachings of the Prophets… Perhaps the simplest one is the traditional (though not only Jewish) greeting: Peace with you. What is the new meaning Jesus gives to this greeting when He comes and stand in the midst of the disciples and says to them, Peace be with you?
When we talk about what we are most looking for in life, peace features fairly highly on the list: Peace and tranquility, Inner Peace, World peace, Just a bit of peace and quiet… and finally, Rest in peace.
There are many excellent things we can do, but none of them will give us a real, lasting, and deep sense of peace in our life. You may find a temporary fix, something that makes you feel good for a while. But it won’t be long before you are searching again. Always looking, but never finding, that sense of peace you wish you could have.
The world continues to live in fear. We are fearful of our future. We fear we will not have enough and so we hoard. We are fearful of other nations and hence we acquire armaments. We are fearful of ourselves, of our neighbor and of God as well. Most of all, we are fearful of death. When there is fear, there is no peace. Peace presupposes we overcome fear. This is why Jesus’ disciples had no peace: That first day of the week, the disciples were with the doors locked, for fear of the Jewish leaders.
Fear is the offspring of the loss of faith and hope (in worldly terms, some would say fear of the unknown). And this is why fear happens because we have abandoned faith in God.
St. Augustine summarized it accurately: Our hearts are restless until they rest in You. He tells you that you don’t need to be afraid. He can give you a kind of peace that the world cannot give. First, he makes peace between you and God by taking away your and my sins. The sin that we are born with and the sin that we commit in our lives. As we celebrated during the Holy Week, this is the beginning of a permanent dialogue, called prayer, whose most visible fruit is peace, according to our Founder, Fernando Rielo, and our experience.
Believers and non-believers tend to think that peace is just a state of mind, or a state of spirit. Oh no! Again our reductionist way to understand everything… In contrast to this view, I would ask that each of us reflect on these two statements:
* A sincere act, an act of kindness, of good taste, toward someone comports a positive liberating experience, whose fruit is peace and interior joy. Saint Paul affirms that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness (Gal 5:22). (Fernando Rielo, Mystical Conception of Anthropology)
* The peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit! On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit. This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift. And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, no one can remove His peace (Pope Francis 05/20/2014).
To the same extent as we violate the covenant with God, that is, to the same extent as we are unrighteous, we are deprived of the fruit of righteousness, which is peace (Is 32: 17). Righteousness is understood as faithfulness to the covenant relations. This is the theantropic action: God’s action (agent action) in the human being with the human being (receptive action). Peace is not only a divine gift, but also a human task.
The apostles experienced the action of the Holy Spirit in an explicit form. Later, in Pentecost, they fully realized what the mission of the Holy Spirit is: to dwell in them permanently as the Paraclete, or Comforter. The word means, “one called alongside to help.” In terms of mystical life, one who conducts in our spirit the Purification and the Union with the Most Holy Trinity.
As an example of a desirable Continuous Canon in our personal relationship with God, we know that peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly. This explains why Jesus, as today’s Gospel narrates, came for a second time to the Apostles, when Thomas was with them. Jesus demonstrated with total clarity His mercy and forgiveness even to unbelievers like Thomas and atheists. He invites them: Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe. God can identify even with non-believers in their emptiness.
Peace is essentially a gift of God, which transforms the inner man and should be also manifested outwardly. Therefore, peacemaking becomes a task of the Church: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people. (Rom. 12:18). In fact, the peace of man with God, with himself and with other people are inseparable. Moreover, as disciples of Jesus, we have been given the grace of being humble instruments to start this reconciliation: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.
Why did Jesus say to Thomas, You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe? It might seem that the latter have more merit; some speak of a worthy “leap of faith”… Although true, that is only half the truth. As we have seen, and this is our personal experience, when we receive the forgiveness of our sins and when we become more aware of God’s confidence because, despite everything, we are given a mission. In these conditions, we do not need to see, we do not need to understand many things; we are happy because it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is Truth (1Jn 5, 6).
This was the case of a religious person, who told me that she persevered in her vocation only because some persons under her guidance needed her support and testimony.
Openness is the bridge between our weak faith and the power of the Holy Spirit: openness to seeking God; openness to seeing Christ in others; openness to encountering Jesus in those who do not believe. This openness is the instrument of those who are humble and lowly, those who dare to be again like children in their relationship to God. In the words of St. John Paul II: I wish to say that openness to Christ, who as the Redeemer of the world fully reveals man himself, can only be achieved through an ever more mature reference to the Father and His love (Nov. 30, 1980).
Yes, our weak faith enables us to see him in those people who are filled with his Spirit and who bring him into our lives. And we also see and find him in the sick, the weak, the oppressed, the poor around us who provide us with opportunities to show compassion for Jesus. We are even to see him in those who are hostile or who do harm to us in the sense that we are challenged to be Christ for them in our unconditional love.