Reflections on the Readings
May 5, 2013 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year C
An Easter Benediction
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." - Jesus
Pope Francis said, "And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favor. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me - the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer - your prayer for me - in silence." A serenity descended upon everyone. Even those watching felt the effects of that holy moment. It seemed as if the peace of Christ became tangible; not a worldly peace, but a peace from another world, a heavenly place.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father's right hand, he did a remarkable thing. Standing before his closest followers he promised them his presence, his power, and his peace.
Jesus promises us that he will never be far from us. "I am with you always," he said. He is never far from anyone. He is close even to those who do not know him. When in faith anyone reaches out to him, they will know that he is near. Christ offers his friendship to all of us. And when we invite Christ into our lives and living, we have a friend who will never leave us, nor forsake us. 'There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.'(Proverbs 18:24)
To know Jesus is to know his strength. Every day we need the courage and strength to live as a follower of Christ. Jesus gives us the power we need to be his witnesses. He sends us into the world with a measure of his divine power, the very power that raised him from the dead. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified. (Romans 8:14-17)
Even in times of misunderstanding and resistance to the love of Christ we give, we are filled with Christ's strength. We can do all things through Christ who gives us his strength. (Philippians 4:13) In the powerful name of Jesus we can pray, live, and give a joyful witness to his love. In the matchless name of Christ we are more than flesh and blood, we are a new creation, citizens of a heavenly city.
We have the promise of Christ's life and love, his very presence. Christ gives us the energy of his life to keep us strong in the face of temptations and trials. And in this world he gives us his peace, but not the kind of peace the world gives. He gives us a peace that is mutually and spontaneously proceeding within the fellowship and friendship of the Blessed Trinity: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23) Everyday let us invite and claim for ourselves this life of peace known and given to us in Christ.
Jesus taught, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children God." Jesus, the Prince of Peace, calls us to himself. He charges us to be his emissaries, to be his people sent on a special mission of spreading the Gospel of peace. In St. Paul's spiritual armor listed in Ephesians chapter 6, the foot ware of the Christian is the gospel of peace. That means we choose the road of peace and reconciliation.
The insane arsenal of the way of war is enough to blow up the world several times over. Now I ask you, which is better, the landscape in a nuclear winter, or green pastures enhanced by the calm waters that refresh the soul? I know your answer. And I agree.
When we choose God's peace, and invite his peace into our lives, his peace gives us the way to say, "I'm sorry. Will you please forgive me." I've tried the other way more times than I care to remember. When Jesus said, "My peace I give you," the words came from deep inside him where there was no conflict between the divinity he shared within his humanity. He gives us his peace to help our humanity to not war so much against his divine nature. Now that's peace. That's the peace that comes from him who is alive forevermore. The Risen Christ blesses us with a different peace, an unworldly kind of peace, a peace that passes all understanding. This kind of peace will give us hearts and minds that are filled with Christ's love - a love that covers a multitude of wrongs - and afterward fills our lives, our homes, our work places, and our parishes, with an Easter Benediction of Peace! Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com