April 27, 2003
Peace Be With You
(John 20: 19-31)
We continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, to rejoice with the
disciples, and to pray that we become an Easter people, people of the
resurrection, people who know that death does not get the last word, that
life is stronger than all the forces of death. I would like to say three
things about today's Gospel.
Jesus is so humble, modest, thoughtful, mindful and peaceful. If I had
just been betrayed, denied, and abandoned by my friends, and then tortured
and executed, I don't know if I would want to go back to those guys or
come back to earth at all. I'd probably say to God, "Do I have to go back
to that horrible planet and those mean people?" or I'd just be mad for
several thousand years at what they did to me.
But Jesus is completely different. Not only does he come back to his
friends, he says to them not once but three times, "Peace be with you." He
shows them his wounds, and then says it to them again, "Peace be with
I think Jesus chooses his words very deliberately, and that he is serious
about this gift of peace, that he wants us to live in his peace, that
the Gospel is calling us to say, "OK risen Lord, we rejoice that you are
alive and we accept your gift of peace."
From now on, the Gospel says, as people of the resurrection, people who
follow the risen Jesus, we are going to be perfectly at peace with ourselves,
with God, with him, with one another, with our families and spouses and
children and parents, with everyone in town and in the church and in the
country and the whole world.
So I invite you to reflect on his words, on this gift, and the peace
within you. What would it mean to live in his peace, to give your burdens
and worries and fears and anxieties and problems to God and really accept
Christ's peace? How can each one of us become more peaceful, like him,
and radiate peace like him?
The Gospel says that from now on, we are people of peace, people who
have peace within us, people who share that same greeting of peace with
one another, people who offer peace to the whole world. That's why we
have to be against war and nuclear weapons and violence and everything
that is not peaceful, no matter what the world says. We seek peace with
everyone because we have received the gift of peace from the risen Jesus.
Notice that when he gives us his peace, he shows us his wounds, which
I think means that the peace of Christ, the peace not of this world, comes
not through violence and war and the false security of weapons, but through
our sharing in his wounds, in the cross, in his nonviolent suffering love,
through giving our lives for humanity as he did, in love for everyone.
I remember when I was in prison with Philip Berrigan for our plowshares
disarmament action, Phil spoke at length to me about this. Peace comes
through the cross, he said.
Second, notice is that after he gives us his peace, he does another unusual
thing. He breathes his spirit of peace upon us. Throughout his life, Jesus
says, "I want to be your servant. I want to be your friend. I want to
be even food and drink." Now he goes even farther, and says, "I want to
be the air you breathe! I want you to live and breathe in my spirit of
So we are invited to breathe in his spirit of peace and breathe out his
spirit of peace on one another so that we are living and breathing in
the peace of Jesus. The Buddhists say that we are supposed to be so peaceful
and centered that we are aware of our every breath, like Jesus. So I invite
you to breathe in the spirit of resurrection peace from now on.
Third, Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection and the following
week, Jesus appears and says "Peace be with you" and tells Thomas to put
his finger into his wounds, his hand into his side, and believe.
About 20 or 30 years before the Gospel of John was written, around the
year 90, the horrible, evil, brutal Roman emperor Diocletian issued an
order saying that he was to be addressed as "My Lord and My God," and
if you didn't call him that, you would be immediately killed, beheaded
or thrown to the lions.
So anyone who heard this Gospel in the second century would be totally
shocked, because it is subversive and revolutionary. The Gospel says that
the emperor is not god, but our guy, Jesus, is God. When Thomas says, "My
Lord and My God," he is risking his life. He is going to be killed and
martyred for calling Jesus, not Diocletian, "My Lord and My God." In fact,
thousands of early Christians were martyred by Diocletian and the Roman
So when we call Jesus "Our Lord and our God," we place all our allegiance
in Christ. But we have lost the danger of those words, the power of those
words, the risk. Would you be willing to be martyred for calling Jesus
our Lord and our God? We have to find out what those words mean for us
I think, like Thomas, we are saying that we are not going to worship
any false god or any idol or money or weapons or America or our leaders
and their false security. We serve Jesus, "Our Lord and our God." We give
him our entire allegiance, come what may.
In these turbulent times, we take up the Gospel challenge to become people
of resurrection, people of peace, people who worship Jesus, people who
breathe his spirit of peace, people who follow him on the road of peace
to the new life of resurrection. What more could we ask for?
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