14 April 2024

Peace be with you

3rd Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

He's dead and buried. And now his body is missing. His disciples are confused, angry, disappointed, and deeply worried. Without cell phones or email, they start to gather in small groups to figure out what happened in Jerusalem. What went wrong? What about his promises to free them from slavery to Rome? What about his kingdom and his promise to be with them always? They can't help but be a little embarrassed by their apparent gullibility. He claimed to be the Son of God, yet he died like a criminal on a Roman cross. He claimed to be the Messiah, but the only thing he saved was the status quo. Nothing has changed. Pilate is still proconsul. Herod Antipas is still king. The Pharisees and scribes still preach and teach. And they are in hiding for being foolish enough to follow some guy from Nazareth who claimed to be the Savior spoken of in Isaiah's prophecy! Then, in a plot-twist worthy of a telenovela, he appears in their midst. And he's got a question for them: “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” That's a good question for us as well. Why are we troubled? What do questions arise in our hearts? The Risen Christ says to us: “Peace be with you.”

So, why are we troubled? Well, I could take you on a quick trip through last week's news cycle: the war in Gaza and Ukraine; Iran attacking Israel; earthquakes in Taiwan and Japan; Haiti overrun by gangs; terror attacks on Christians in Nigeria and a record number of attacks on churches in the US and Canada – you get the idea. There's a lot to be troubled about. Christ can hardly blame us for being just a little uneasy. Just a little squeamish about how we're supposed to live our lives in peace with so much chaos swirling around us. We haven't even mentioned our personal troubles – economic woes; raising kids in a digital world; national politics in an election year; our teens embracing nihilism over faith. It's all too much too fast to take in much less react to with a heart and mind given over to Christ. And so, Christ says to us, “Peace be with you.” Allow my peace to consume you. Allow me to remind you who and what you are. You are mine. Heirs to the Kingdom. A new creation free from sin and death. Freed to become Christ right when and where you are. “Whoever keeps [my] word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”

And we know that the perfect love of God cannot be taken from us. Riots, dodgy elections, inflation, insane activists, wars, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics – nothing can take God's love from us. This is the peace of Christ. What the disciples back then forgot – nor never understood – is that God's love for us is more than just a person-to- person love, more than a passion we have for a spouse or a child. Divine love is that. But it is also much, much more. Love is the very stuff of creation itself. Love, Divine Love, is the logos of all that is, the organizing principle of being. All things – ALL things! – were created in, through, with, and for Christ, the Word made flesh. The rioters, the activists, the terrorists, the invaders, the viruses, even the politicians – all were created in, through, with, and for Christ. From the beginning, the Word is and the Word is God. All the trouble, all the chaos, all the apparent evil in the world at large and in our live writ small, all of it, in the end, serves God's providence. What He doesn't will positively, He wills permissively – He allows – so that His love can be manifest. So, why are we troubled? And why do questions arise in our hearts? Well, probably b/c you and I are not yet perfected in Christ. B/c you and I have not yet perfected our witness to the Good News.

What's keeping us from the perfection of Christ? Easy answer: sin. Thick minds and cold hearts. Failure to trust God and His promises. Disordered passions. Willfulness and intellectual dishonesty. Being too much of the world. And the most vicious of all the sins: Pride. The lie that we can become god w/o God. That we can be our own creator w/o any help from The Creator. The frightened disciples who witness Christ's sudden appearance among them were scared b/c their beloved teacher is dead and his body is missing. If we are frightened it's b/c we're not certain that God has the will and the power to bring love from evil. Maybe we're frightened b/c we think it's our job to take up God's slack and finish what He can't or won't. Maybe we're worried so deeply about How Things Are Going b/c we don't truly trust that God will do the right thing. That's what the Enemy is betting on. He tells us that we can be god w/o God and then tell us it's our job to fix the world, watches us panic in failure, and then points back to God and says, “See. Told ya He was powerless to help.” It's all a lie. The Lie. Our job is perfectly simple: Be Christ when and where you are. Bear witness to God's mercy. Love. Forgive. Be generous with what you have been given. Be truth bearers and lovers of beauty. Always, always will the best. Pray for your enemies. You are witnesses now. No troubles, no questions, no worries. Ground yourself in Divine Love, Christ and him crucified. Nothing in this world can uproot you. 

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  1. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Wow! Thank you Fr. Philip. How much I need to grow in my faith. MD

    1. Anonymous6:12 AM

      MD, thank you. I preach to myself first, so what arises in the homily is always addressed to me. I need to grow too!