“Peace be with you!” A greeting very dear to us in the Catholic peace movement is the very greeting the Risen Lord shared with his disciples gathered on the evening of Easter Sunday. His greeting of peace was accompanied by the revelation of his wounds, now part of his glorified body, proving his identity as the crucified one who is now alive. He then commissioned his apostles with the breath of his Spirit, “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”
We know that the greeting of peace was spoken to a fearful and shocked group of disciples who were comparing experiences and not sure what to make of the unbelievable news of the resurrection. It is the peace of holistic well-being, the “shalom” of God, that Jesus shares with his troubled disciples. It is that peace which the Risen Christ shares with us and commissions us to share with others. A peace which rests upon right relationships, not merely the absence of conflict, is what Jesus shares and we are called to share.
That sense of peace which is so naturally proclaimed by the Risen Christ accompanied him through his trial and his suffering and death on the cross. It is that peace which the world needs in the midst of this pandemic. You and I are empowered to share that peace and to promote the healing of broken relationships, with God, with each other and with the world. The fruit of the resurrection is the healing of all that is not well, all that lacks peace. Jesus is the wounded healer who conveys mercy rather than vengeance upon those who put him to death. He generously shares his spirit of peace which heals and brings new life.
On the first day of Lent, we were reminded of our mortality with the sign of ashes on our foreheads. Even as the suffering from the coronavirus was already a devastating force in China, Italy and other parts of the world, most of us were hardly prepared for the vulnerability that we would come to experience this Lent. Even though vulnerability is a constant reality for those who live with the reality of war, for those who are refugees or unwelcomed migrants, for those who lack access to health care, for those whose opportunities are routinely limited because of systemic racism and for those who lack economic stability; as Americans, we instinctively avoid any sense of vulnerability.
Jesus, from the beginning of his earthly life, embraced vulnerability as part of what it is to be human. He trusts in God’s strength and reveals that strength in the mysterious way of accepting vulnerability. Because many of us are taught to avoid vulnerability, the arrival of an invisible virus spread through droplets expelled by afflicted brothers and sisters has been very scary for us. Scrubbing our hands, covering our mouths, keeping our distances are all constant reminders of that vulnerability, a vulnerability which Jesus willingly shares in and transforms.
An abiding sense of peace allows us to embrace this vulnerability as Jesus did and to trust God our creator who will bring us through our present difficulties. As we celebrate the new life of the risen Jesus, let us be mindful of our commissioning as ambassadors of peace — not a peace won by strength and might, but one gained through solidarity with all of those vulnerable and dependent upon God.
Easter seems quite different without our usual gatherings, our triumphant worship services, and even without the Easter sacraments. But Christ is indeed risen, there is indeed hope for the world, all the suffering and pain that are so evident will be temporary. Weakness and vulnerability, evident in the wounds of the Savior, have been transformed into the power of an all-encompassing peace which transcends even death.
Happy Easter and Peace be with you!
Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Bishop-President of Pax Christi USA