“Peace be with you”

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'"
(John 20:19)
Today is the Octave  of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Liturgically, of course, we are still celebrating Easter Sunday: we hear once again John's story of the the Lord meeting the Apostles in the upper room.

In this passage we see the disciples cowering in fear in the Upper Room. Imagine how they must have felt when Jesus first appeared to them. Recall that on the day of his death, out of all the apostles, John was the only one present at Calvary. The rest had abandoned him. Like Peter in his famous denial, each had rejected him in their own way.

What must have been their first reaction when the Lord appeared alive in their midst?

I imagine the first reaction was shame and fear.

Would the Lord chastise them for what they had done? Would he reject them for their rejection of him?

Sometimes we come to places in our own spiritual life where we have those same doubts and fears--places where our sins catch up with us. We wonder whether God is willing to still work with us given the things that we've done. We may find ourselves at points in our life when we're afraid to face him.

Yet Jesus doesn't reject the apostles, nor does he reject us. He looks into their eyes and says to them "Peace be with you."  The Lord doesn't desire to condemn them or chastise them. Rather, he wants them to have peace and joy: to find forgiveness and new life.

In the Upper Room, we see the Lord's radical mercy at work.

It is important to note that it is only after Jesus proclaims his peace and shows his hands and his side that the disciples finally rejoice. At that point, they know that the Lord is truly present with them and that he truly loves them and forgives them.

Then, though, the Lord does something beyond simply forgiving them their failings. He looks at them again and says "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). He doesn't just bring them forgiveness, he brings them a mission and a purpose.

Likewise, our spiritual journey as Christians is not just about ourselves and about our own relationship with Jesus. It's about us being used as instruments of God's radical mercy in the world, of us being given a share in that mission so that we might go out and bring others the same mercy that the Lord has shown us.

Not only does the Lord still love us in our sinfulness, but he entrusts us with this critical mission. He doesn't just call us to be believers, he calls us to be apostles: to be those who are sent out into the world to spread the good news.

Far from rejecting us, the Lord is calling us.

So when you find yourself in those moments in your spiritual walk where your weaknesses and your sin seem to overwhelm you, listen for that call. The Lord is calling you to go out on his behalf, in spite your faults and failings. In fact, it may very well be those faults and failings that become your greatest strengths and allow you to authentically witness the gospel to those around you.

Every Saint has a past. The corollary of that, of course, is that every sinner has a future. God doesn't want you to dwell in your past, but instead wants you to hand that past over to him--to allow him to sanctify it to purify it so that you can move forward into a brighter future.

This is the message of Easter Sunday. The message of hope and resurrection, of radical mercy.

The good news is that the Lord has not abandoned us to our sins, but rather, through his death on the Cross, has broken the power of sin and death forever. Our chains have been unlocked. We are free to find new life, new hope and new purpose through him. I pray that today, and every day, you will take the Lord up on that offer to live in hope and resurrection. 

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