May the Easter season bring us peace
Today’s Gospel on the Second Sunday of Easter reminds us of the importance of peace. Not only must we find peace within ourselves, but we must also promote peace in our communities and throughout the world.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (Jn 20:21)
What can you do to bring peace to your community?
How can the Holy Spirit inspire your work in the world?
How can you build connections within your community?
In the Gospel from John, Jesus appears to some of the disciples, imparting the Holy Spirit to them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” This statement is typically interpreted as giving the disciples the ability to forgive sins, which is foundational to the sacrament of reconciliation. The gift of the Holy Spirit has echoes of Pentecost, which will be celebrated at the end of the Easter season.
But focusing exclusively on the conferral of the Spirit and authority to forgive sins could miss how Jesus begins this encounter with his disciples, by saying “Peace be with you.” Moreover, when Thomas declares that he must see the risen Christ in order to believe, Jesus greets him by offering peace before critiquing his attitude. Before Jesus acts to empower his followers or to dispel doubt and sustain faith, he grounds their relationship in peace.
Peace is more than just a simple salutation. Peace in biblical tradition can be associated with justice, mercy and truth, as discussed in the April print edition of America. By greeting his followers with peace, Jesus reveals that he wants his followers to have peace in their own lives and to enrich their community with peace through their ministry. Notice that Jesus sets the tone for the Christian community by calling for peace before empowering ministerial work.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the elements of the Mass that was eliminated or adjusted was the sign of peace which is often given through a handshake. As people were rightfully concerned about virus transmission, physical contact was reduced for the safety of the community. This important adjustment supports health and wellness and is a sign of love and protection. As restrictions are loosened, some churches have added the sign of peace back into Masses, although many people still opt to wave to those around them to limit physical touch.
While the means for sharing the sign of peace may have changed, the sentiment should be maintained. During the communal celebration of the Eucharist, it is worthwhile to take a moment to wish peace onto those around us, repeating Jesus’ words and showing concern for one another’s wellbeing. The reciprocal statements of peace help to strengthen bonds and unite a community in its shared faith in Christ and shared hopes for one another.
In a world full of suffering and violence, we desperately need peace. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and Mary, Our Lady of Peace, can inspire our prayers for peace and our work in the world. As we journey through the Easter season, we will hear more about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and calls for peace and the promise of the Holy Spirit will be reiterated. May we use this season to pray and work for peace in the world.