Second Sunday of Easter A
Updated: May 3
April 19, 2020
John 20: 19-31
by Fr. John Tran
Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples behind the locked door of the room where they had gathered in confusion and fear. It was evening of the first day of the week. That is to say, it was the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead. It must have been a terrible time for them since the night of Holy Thursday - three days of wondering where it all went so wrong. Wondering whether everything from the past few years meant anything at all.
And what did Jesus say to them as he appeared among them? He said, “Peace be with you.” Four simple words that meant so much to them as they realized that Jesus was among them again. How to understand it? Jesus presence gave them peace. He calmed them and gave them the Holy Spirit so that his presence would remain always with them. A week later, when Thomas was present, he made Thomas touch his wounded hands and feet, as well as his side. He made sure that they really knew that they really knew he was there with them; he even at food so that they understood that he was no ghost, but himself really present. And all of this gave them peace. We have the disciples’ word that all this is true. He gave his peace.
It is a powerful peace. His peace is his abiding presence in his people that gives us courage and moves us to action. Yet his peace includes his wounds. It includes all that Jesus is and has been through. It is not necessarily a peace that is simple tranquility. No, it is a peace made for living and action. It is a peace that works through real people, just as it worked through the reality of Jesus who rose. It is a peace that conquers our greatest fear: the fear that we will pass into oblivion and cease of exist. It is a peace in which there is suffering, but also rising. It is a peace, most of all, to be given away.
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?” Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?” She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life and given her peace.
It is a powerful peace. I remember reading that someone said: “Peace is made by one friendship at a time.” That is exactly as the peace that Jesus gave to his disciples in that locked room. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Real peace can only be brought by release from the captivity of comfortable lies and the acceptance of suffering.” The peace we bring to one another in the presence of Jesus is that peace of friendship. It can help us and the other to stand up for what Jesus stood for, and at the same time, keep that sure peace of freedom from death so that suffering is eased by Jesus’ presence. That presence is brought by each one of us to others. It is a powerful peace that can unlock any room.
In these times of sickness, death, and sheltering at home, we can sometimes feel just as the disciples did. Jesus can give even us his peace if we turn to him and recognize he is present to us now; he told us that if two or three are gathered in my name, I am there. The Chinese woman in the story did just what the disciple did; they gave the peace away and tried to make Christ present where ever they were. Especially now, it is our turn to bring Jesus' peace. Amen