A Peace-Filled Witness by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, "These are my words and that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
Luke and John recount in their Gospels that Jesus' most common greeting during the resurrection appearances was "Peace be with you." There is no doubt that the disciples of Christ needed the gift of God's peace after witnessing his passion and death, having their dreams dashed with his disappearance, and fearfully agonizing for three days over how they might soon come to the same fate as Christ at the hands of the Sanhedrin. Yet, there is more to Christ's gift of peace than a simple desire to calm his frantic followers.
Christ's frequent offer of the gift of his peace after Easter morning suggests that his peace was a particular fruit of the resurrection. While his very presence, his love, his powerful message of truth and his healing grace were often a source of peace for those who encountered Him during his public ministry, the resurrected Christ offered this gift in a completely new and more powerful way.
Everything that Christ said and did for three years pointed to the Paschal Mystery, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every miraculous healing, every powerful sermon and every life-changing encounter was mysteriously pointing to and drawing power from these saving events. Jesus conquered Satan, sin and death by becoming sin for us, offering his life in obedient love to the Father on the cross and rising on the third day. He became at the resurrection a source of eternal peace.
Christ won victory in the most important war that we face as humans, achieving true forgiveness from the Father, reconciling us to Him and restoring us to a life of grace. Pope John Paul II, in an Easter message from April 23, 2003, said: "Peace, therefore, is identified as a 'novelty' inserted into the history of the Passover of Christ. It is born from a deep renewal of the human heart. Therefore, it is not the result of human efforts nor can it be achieved only through agreements between persons and institutions. Rather, it is a gift to be accepted with generosity, to be preserved with care, and to be made fruitful with maturity and responsibility. However troubled the situation may be, however strong the tension and conflict, nothing can resist the effective renewal brought by the risen Christ. He is our peace."
St. Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, makes it clear that a crucial role of an apostle, and indeed any Christian, is to bear witness to the Christ's resurrection. "The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses." As Christians, we have a mission: to bear witness to the Risen Lord.
One of the most powerful ways that we bear witness to Christ is when his peace reigns in our hearts. The world is starving for peace, on every level. If we know Christ's peace, if it reigns in our lives in spite of life's countless trials, then people will seek the source of our peace and we will be led to Christ. When we are deeply aware that the war has already been won by Christ and with Him at the center of our lives we have nothing to fear, the Good News will spread like a brushfire on this earth.
Lord, make me a peace-filled witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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