The Peace He Gives Us: Homily for Easter Thursday

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Today we see the full conclusion of the Emmaus story (Luke 24:35-48). As the two disciples recount what had just happened to them on their journey, and in the breaking of the bread, the same risen Jesus stands in their midst and imparts His “Peace” to the gathered disciples. What is the meaning of this greeting here and in the other resurrection accounts?

The disciples are supposed to enjoy the peace of Christ immediately after they had witnessed the traumatic and brutal events of His passion. Not only that: the Apostles are huddled together in the upper room terrified of what’s outside. The doors are locked. Their thoughts are buzzing about what’s going to happen to them. And their fears are mostly justified. Anyone associated with Jesus of Nazareth is a marked man. To preach in His name is to draw persecution on yourself. And the message from the risen Nazarene, again, is: “Peace be with you.”

Now we look to ourselves, to all that disturbs our inner peace. Think of all the things that cause you to lose peace. Think of all the things that test your trust and confidence in God. Think of events or circumstances that make you feel sad and hopeless. Think of all these things and you put yourself squarely in the midst of these earliest Christians. You stand shoulder-to-shoulder with companions whom you understand and who understand you. Jesus has the same message for all of us: “Peace be with you.”

The causes of our agitation might seem petty. They might seem exaggerated. They might be partially or entirely justified. Whatever the source trouble is, the risen Lord lightly sets it all aside—as though our problems have no substance to them. He seems to make light work even of the things that weigh heaviest on our hearts—and He gets away with it!

Here He is asking the questions that disarm all of our turmoil and untangle every knot: “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” We have no good reason, Lord. No good reason. The question itself imparts peace. Jesus stands in the midst of our excitement, our fear, our foolishness, our lack of faith, and says: I am risen. Why do you continue to agitate yourself with these things? I am risen and with you always.

The fullness of Christ’s victory over sin and death is communicated to us by the one word “peace.” When this greeting, even this command, comes from the lips of Jesus it scatters all of our darkness, suspends all of our fears, and sets us free to rejoice in His triumph, because it is also ours.

The Lord had told His apostles at the last supper to remain in Him as He remains in them. Is there anyone who doesn’t see the need for this? Once the Apostles go out from the upper room and into the world, they are going to need tremendous inner peace in their mission. They will meet with much success, but also with a lot of resistance, mockery, and retaliation.

Their strength will come from the peace that Christ has bestowed on them—not as the world gives it, but as Jesus does. Worldly peace depends entirely on circumstances. It is contingent on things going well for us. God’s peace means that even if the whole world is against us, it really doesn’t matter. He has overcome the world. He is with us, for us, defending and advocating for us.

“See that it is myself,” the Lord invites us today, “and not a ghost.” That is, it’s not your imagination, not wishful thinking, but a solemn promise: I will be with you.

Jesus doesn’t mean that once we have this conviction, our troubles will cease, that there will be no further cause for sorrow and worry, but that we will have the peace to take it all with the strength that comes from His victory. We will hear the Lord’s voice come across our troubled waters, through locked doors, through fear and trembling, saying: “Peace, be still. I am risen and with you always.”

Rev. John Henry Hanson, O. Praem.
Father John Henry Hanson, O. Praem., is a Norbertine priest of St Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. He entered the community in 1995, earned his STB and Masters in Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. Currently, he teaches English at St Michael’s Preparatory School, the boarding school operated by the Norbertine Fathers. He also preaches retreats, is chaplain to the cloistered Norbertine Nuns in Tehachapi, California, and serves Armenian rite Catholics at the Cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator in Glendale, California (Our Lady of Nareg Eparchy). He and his community are cooperators of Opus Dei.

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