“Peace be with you!” Wishing someone peace is such a familiar gesture of greeting. We experience it at every Mass immediately before receiving Holy Communion as we quickly turn to our neighbor in the pew and shake hands or nod. We might even say, “peace.”
“Peace” was the greeting Jesus chose on that first Easter evening. In an instant, He was in the midst of His disciples. He invited them to look upon his wounds — making it clear that it was really Jesus, now Risen. Imagine their emotions at His presence with them.
They had heard from Mary Magdalene, Peter and John that earlier in the day the tomb was found empty. The evangelist John tells us that they did not know what to make of it (John 20:9). It would only be a bit later that they would look back on the words of Jesus during his public ministry: “Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up again!” (John 2:19) They were still feeling the loss of their Master … their Leader … the One whom they had followed.
So when Jesus said, “peace,” they must have had a swirl of emotion. You see, every one of them had either denied Jesus on his way to the cross or had run or both! Peter must have been especially dazed. He had denied Jesus. He had run from him. Now he stood inches away from the One who loved him, who would later on Galilee’s shore ask him, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)
This Easter Sunday, you and I stand where those apostles of Jesus stood — right before they were sent into the world. We look at the wounds of Jesus announcing that the one who died for our sins — died a painful death on the cross — now is alive! We look at the wounds that remind us of his great love for each of us … of how He laid down His life for us, though we are still imperfect sinners.
We hear his voice: “Peace be with you!” More than a quick hello, this word, shalom, is a robust word; a word that penetrates our souls, indicating a full restoration.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we hear these words of Jesus and are lifted up from our worries and anxieties, our sufferings and our cares.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome,” He says again, “and I will refresh you. Take my yoke … and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Matthew 11:28)
In 1834, the Anglican pastor, Henry Francis Lyte, looked to Psalm 103 and composed the words for the hymn, “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven.” As we raise our voices to the Risen Lord Jesus this Easter, especially fitting is the first stanza containing four adjectives: ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.
Easter proclaims that the people of God, all creation and my very soul have been ransomed from sin and death, healed of our weaknesses, restored to innocence as God intended and forgiven in the depths of our being. St. Peter understood each of these adjectives when he heard from the lips of his savior, now risen, “Peace be with you!”
Easter is that day to proclaim it:
“Praise my soul the King of heaven, to his feet your tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven; evermore his praises sing;
Alleluia, alleluia. Praise the everlasting King.”
In humble confidence and joy, we announce, “Christ is risen, Alleluia!”
Have a truly blessed Easter!