A Second Greeting of Peace

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April 23, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

April 23, 2017
Gospel: John 20: 19-31
Fr. George Smiga

When the risen Jesus appears to the Apostles in today’s gospel, the first thing that he says to them is, “Peace be with you.” There’s nothing strange about this greeting. After Jesus’ horrible death, the disciples imagined that they would never see him again. So when he appears to them unexpectedly, and even though the doors were locked, they needed some reassurance. Jesus’ greeting of peace is his way of saying, “Yes, I am really here. Believe your eyes. I love you still.” The greeting of peace makes perfect sense.

What is peculiar is that Jesus repeats this greeting a second time. After the disciples have seen him, after he has shown them his hands and his side, after the disciples have rejoiced, Jesus says again, “Peace be with you.”  Why does he repeat this greeting again? Why is not one expression of reassurance enough? Perhaps Jesus repeats this greeting, not because the disciples are sad, but because they are happy, not because they are distraught, but because they are overwhelmed with joy. In the very minute that they realize that Jesus is risen, Jesus is with them, there might be a part of them that begins to worry: What will we do if he leaves us again? A part of them might conclude this is simply too good to last. So Jesus repeats a second time, “Peace be with you.” And, thereby he directs them to leave their worries to the future, center on the joy that they have today, and leave the rest to God.

Sometimes in our moments of greatest joy, sometimes when we are truly overwhelmed with our blessings, we can begin to think, “What will I do if this changes?”  In that moment Jesus reassures us and again gives us his peace. When you look at a newly born son or daughter and you are overwhelmed by the bliss of new life and the love that you have, even in that joy, there can be part you that begins to worry: “What if he or she develops health problems, makes a bad decision, is unable to find happiness in life?” In that worry, Jesus says to us again, “Peace be with you. Embrace the blessing you have today and rejoice.” When you find yourself in an ideal work situation, when you enjoy what you do and the people you are doing it with, even in that happiness there can be a part of you that begins to wonder, “What will I do if someone leaves or business turns negative?” In that worry Jesus says to us again, “Peace be with you. You are blessed today, be productive and thankful.” If you are fortunate to enter retirement with security and a partner who loves you, even as you enjoy the blessings of leisure, it is possible that you begin to think, “How long will this last. How long before I have to face sickness and say good bye?” In that worry, Jesus comes to us and says, “You have the person you love now. Do not let the joy slip through your fingers. Embrace that joy and be thankful.”

Jesus gives the greeting of peace to his disciples a second time so that they can focus on the joy they have today and leave the rest to God. Jesus’ greeting of peace is effective, because that greeting is not just a matter of words. Jesus’ peace is connected to his person and to his presence, and he is always with us. So Jesus greets us with peace today that we might rejoice, and he promises us that he will be with us in the future to offer us peace again, no matter what kind of challenges we will need to face.

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