Luis CASASUS, General Superior of the men’s branch of the Idente Missionaries.
Europe, April 11, 2021 | Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Acts of the Apostles 4: 32-35; First Letter of John 5: 1-6; Saint John 20: 19-31.
Jesus knows that peace is an urgency for each one of us. That is why, with the frightened disciples, he takes an emergency measure and appears in their midst, in the room where they were locked up. As the risen One appears, he speaks these simple words: Peace be with you. Not once, but twice: Peace be with you.
With this traditional greeting and with his presence, Jesus teaches us that peace is a permanent work, that is why he had called the peacemakers “blessed”. And it is remarkable that those who build peace will be called children of God, which means, among other things, the undeniable testimony of peacemakers: they carry out this work only because they certainly come from God himself.
Sometimes we do not realize that whoever is next to us urgently needs peace, just as we need air to breathe. But, what is peace?
During his weekly audience on April 15, 2020 Pope Francis stressed the need for true peace and the role of peacemakers. He said that the word peace needs to be explained, because it can be misunderstood or become meaningless.
First, he noted that there are two concepts of peace, one comes from the Biblical term Shalom, which he said signifies an abundant, or flourishing life, while the other is the modern notion of peace, which is interior serenity. Everyone talks about it and proposes methods to achieve it, from meditating a few minutes a day to taking a walk in nature, to maintaining a gratitude journal.
This second idea of peace is a modern, psychological and more subjective idea, which is incomplete and cannot become an absolute because anxieties in life may be an important time to grow. Very often the Holy Spirit makes use of the restlessness in us so that we might go towards Him, to find Him.
As Pope Francis said, the peace of Christ is a fruit of His death and resurrection. True shalom and true interior equilibrium flow from the peace of Christ that comes from His Cross and generates humanity
The Biblical shalom indicates the gift, the coming, the presence of God himself, for God is the one and only source of peace. The Messianic title ‘Prince of peace’ that we find in the Old Testament, applies in its fullness to Christ, the king of peace.
Nevertheless this peace is not a withdrawal into oneself. Man is called to share in the very life of the Trinity: That they may be one, even as we are one, said Jesus to His Father whom He has made ours. Our personal peace is realized in the peace of communion. The Christian, wherever he finds himself, has to become a peacemaker of human existence. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12: 14).
In fact, those who, like Thomas, are not within a community, cannot make the experience of the Risen Lord. They cannot hear his greeting and his Word; they cannot accept his forgiveness and his peace, nor experience his joy and receive his Spirit.
Jesus’ peace gives no assurance against hardship; the apostles suffered all kinds of trials and finally death by martyrdom. And indeed, shortly hereafter, Christ tells them: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation (Jn 16: 33).
Clearly, freedom from violence in this world is not promised. But with Christ’s peace comes the deep, inner assurance that all things, even our greatest sufferings, will be for our good. Just as Jesus hushed the storm with the words “Peace, be still” and brought forth “a great calm” (see Mark 4: 39), so can he speak peace to the troubled mind and soothe the grieving heart.
Peace is achieved by living when we find the right way to walk together with our neighbor.
And we must recognize that the Holy Spirit gently pushes our will towards peace, that is, in the opposite direction to our harmful affections and desires. This is true for every person, of whatever belief or with whatever moral life. The victory of our ideas or desires “over other people” does not bring us peace. Let us look at an example of how a group of women found and transmitted peace by finding a way to walk together.
Sweet Dreams (2012) is a documentary following this remarkable group of Rwandan women as they emerge from the devastation of the genocide to create a new future for themselves. In 1994 Rwanda suffered a devastating genocide. Close to a million were killed by neighbors, friends, even family. Horror swept the land. And when it was over, those who remained were broken, dead inside.
Powerful sounds pierce the silence of the Rwandan countryside. Curious children gawk outside the gate. This is something new in Rwanda: a group of women, 60 strong, pounding out rhythms of power and joy.
The country has made great strides in economic recovery, but “people are not like roads and buildings” says Kiki Katese, pioneering Rwandan theater director. “How do we rebuild a human being?“
Kiki decided to start Rwanda’s first and only women’s drumming troupe, open to women from both sides of the conflict. There was only one requirement: to leave the categories of the past at the gate.
For the women —orphans, widows, wives and children of perpetrators— the group has been a place to begin to live again, to build new relationships, to heal the wounds of the past. Yet the struggle to survive and provide for their families still persists.
So when Kiki came up with the idea to open Rwanda’s first and only ice cream shop, the women were intrigued … What was ice cream exactly and how would they do it? Kiki invited two expert American ice cream makers to come to Rwanda to help the drummers open their shop, which they aptly named Inzozi Nziza (Sweet Dreams).
This is precisely what the First Reading tells us. The example of continuous peace and harmony in a community is not a personal testimony. It is impossible to explain without the presence of God in each of its members. That is why it caused admiration and amazement. The Risen Christ could not be seen, but the fraternal community, born from the power of his Spirit, was plain for all. Only the community that preaches and lives brotherhood, who practices the sharing of goods testifies strongly the presence of the Spirit of the Risen Lord in the world.
The price of peace is neither cheap nor quick. It takes courage and selflessness to move beyond our own will to seek the common good. It often means giving up personal power and control to consider how we need to change. Usually the peacemaker may be taken advantage of or hurt, but what is the alternative….hurting others? Think of one person you cannot stand. Now, think of one positive or redeeming trait of that person. If you cannot do it, then how can we expect persons, communities and countries to move past anger to love?
For Jesus true peace begins with forgiveness. He says: If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven…and if you refuse to forgive they are not forgiven. True forgiveness begins the process toward true peace. While refusing forgiveness does not lead to true peace. Through his story we have seen Jesus living according to this statement. During his earthly ministry he has proclaimed the good news of God’s forgiveness.
The people who in have committed unforgivable sins are welcome and eat at the same table with Jesus. Can a clearer and more powerful sign of forgiveness be given, showing that unity has not been broken in spite of everything? Many of them not only are they forgiven by Jesus…they also become his closest followers They find peace in their hearts knowing that when every other person has rejected them because of their sins…Jesus has forgiven them.
Contrary to what is often said, the refusal to accept the forgiveness and peace that God offers us does not stem from our idea of a severe and merciless God. Usually, it is the conviction that we cannot change, because the repetition of a fault and our attempt to overcome it by ourselves, with our own strength, leads us to repeated failures and to a skepticism that paralyzes us.
Peace be with you was a common greeting, but a simple greeting, though, was not enough for the disciples. They were Jews, convinced this wise, charismatic, passionate man was the Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel from bondage to Rome and bring about unending peace.
It had not happened like that. Rather, everything they had hoped for and had trusted in had been swept away. It was inconceivable to them that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal. They were not prepared to find themselves cowering in fear that their association with Jesus would lead the Romans to hunt them down and nail them to their own crosses.
In light of the responsibility and the risk of challenging both religious and political powers, “Peace be with you” as a mere greeting would not be enough.
Each and every one of us has and will face challenges, some personal and others because of our faith.
One may find himself out of work, not knowing how he can keep a roof over his head. Another may find herself standing in the rubble of a relationship she was certain would have a fairytale ending and seeing no way her heart can possibly heal. Someone may, despite deep and intense faith, struggle with a vice or a passion that has such a tight hold that it seems impossible to break free. At such times, Jesus says, “Peace be with you” … and it is more than a greeting.
When we act on faith to bring about justice and peace, we sometimes find ourselves in the crosshairs of people who have a different vision. And sometimes misunderstandings, mistrust or envy arise, so that some form of persecution may occur. At such times, Jesus says, “Peace be with you” … and it is more than a greeting.
The peace of Christ is a grace, a mystical power that springs forth from the reconciliation between the human being and the heavenly Father, according to the providence of Christ, Who brings all things to perfection in Him and who makes peace ineffable and predestined from the ages, and Who reconciles us with Himself, and in Himself with the Father (Dionysius the Areopagite).