Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the 31st of May 2020

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Pentecost Sunday

John 20:19-23

It is a word we see  on mugs, on shirts, on ornaments, in cards. It is the carrot on the stick for virtually everyone. What I am referring to is the notion of ‘peace’. We all want peace and we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Western society seems to be desperate for peace. We can get a sense of this in the huge subscription to consumerism and materialism; in the obsession for romance and relationships;  in endless versions of courses and therapies based on eastern meditations; in yoga regimes and in exercise and fitness in general. This is a generalization but there is a real quest out there for peace.

However, I believe that what we are looking for is not something than can be worked for, or bought or won. It is a gift to be received from faith in Christ. It is only in coming to know God through Jesus that true peace is found. By saying it is found, a more accurate understanding would be that it is given to us by God himself. In the Gospel for this weekend coming, the Gospel for the great feast of Pentecost, Jesus says to His disciples “ Peace be with you” ( John 20: 19). Jesus is offering them peace. It is something He gives. It is a gift to be received.

What is meant by peace? For Christians it is not just a feeling or a tranquil state of life without any suffering or problems. Quite the opposite at times.  We can be full of suffering and trials and persecutions for our faith and yet have deep peace. We can be afflicted with sickness or grief of a loved one and still have peace. It is a deep knowing that we are loved by our Lord and that we receive this love from being in union with Him through the gift of grace. Peace, therefore, is ultimately a state of being. It is our communion with the Lord. It is a profound security that life has meaning and purpose in this communion, even when we cannot see it at times.  Our peace is in trusting Him who sees and knows everything and who is bringing good out of evil and our mistakes. Ultimately, to have peace is to not despair but to trust the Lord with great faith, hope and love. This all comes about through our deep living out the life Jesus has marked for us. When we live according to His commandments, we live in Him, and that is our deepest peace. We can have it with the whole world falling around us. We only loose peace when we sin and waver in faith and we take our eyes off Jesus.

After Jesus says to this disciples “Peace be with you” Jesus  does something interesting, He “showed them his hands and his side.” ( John 20:20) Here He connects the notion of peace with His wounds. It is the passion of Jesus, seen in His wounds, which is the source of our peace. It was by going through the passion and by dying and then rising that Jesus conquered the greatest enemy to our peace: sin and death. Sin and death are barriers to communion with Him and so are obstacles to true peace. At Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who communicates to us the victory of Jesus over sin and death. When the Spirit came to us in our baptism, He brought the gift of peace, our union with Jesus, our reconciliation with God. Hence when we Christians speak of peace we ought not to think of zen meditation, or yoga exercises, or a perfect life without suffering. No! We are to think of peace as our life as being lived in Jesus and of having His love, a love which was communicated through His wounds to us.

One last thing. Notice how Jesus says to the disciples a word of peace. I believe this is significant.  It is a subtle point and can be missed. We may try all sorts of activities searching for peace, but one of the best ways to really experience our communion with the Lord is to make His word at home in us. When we learn to really pray and meditate on God’s word to us in the Scriptures, we can be surprised by an amazing sense of security and hope. Why is this? Because our faith is nourished by God’s word. As faith grows, God becomes more real to us and we are more convinced of God’s promises to us. Our fears flee in the face of the living God. It is faith in His word that brings us in touch with God even more deeply and to be in touch with God is our deepest peace.

– Fr Jesse Maingot OP