30 April, 2012

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (B) 2012


'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you' (John 20:21).
 
The story described in today’s gospel takes place on the evening of Easter day. It is the natural continuation of the resurrection narrative proposed by St John, where the risen Christ meets Mary Magdalene in the garden and commissions her to announce his resurrection to his brothers.
 
This has already happened and when evening comes the disciples are gathered together trying to make sense of the events of the day. Indeed, probably still trying to makes sense of all the Easter events. They are afraid, terrorised by the prospect of being arrested, tortured and killed like Jesus. They are also afraid because of this strange new development; their leader, their Lord, the one to whom most of them have turned their back to, is said to have risen from the dead.
 
Just think. How would you feel if someone you loved deeply, but have wronged in the last moments of their life, was said to have risen from death? What would you feel? Puzzlement? Disbelief? A greater sense of guilt for the wrong committed? Fear of receiving revenge? Surely, somewhere here there is a plot for a horror film.
 
To make matters worse, Jesus’ opponents are probably searching for his disciples, hunting them down until not one of them is left standing. If you were in this position, would you not feel caught between a rock and a hard place? Would you not perhaps go the place that last saw you happy, lock the doors, and let your fears and guilt take control?
 
Yet, and it is a big “yet”. Jesus comes to his disciples and says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Not once, but twice. ‘Peace be with you.’ This is the greeting of Jesus to the ones who turned their backs on him. To the ones who deserted him on Calvary, he shows the marks of his death to reveal the divine glory they missed by not standing at the foot of the Cross. 
Peace be with you.’ To the ones who run away from him, Jesus gives a commission to go into the world just as he did.
Peace be with you.’ To the ones sinned against him by denying him he gives the authority to forgive sins with the gift he bestowed from the Cross, the Holy Spirit.
However much they failed Jesus they have never been failed by the love of God made manifest in Jesus (Moloney, The Gospel of John, 1998 532).
It is to this community of disciples shaken by fear and great joy that Jesus commissions with the next phase of redemption saying, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ (John 20:21). This community, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will be responsible not just for the continuation of Christianity into another generation, but faithful to the pattern of ministry pioneered by Jesus; this community will be also responsible for the sanctification of future generations.
 
‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ means that this early community is destined to be the light that darkens cannot overcome; a community of prayer which lives in the world but it is not of it; a community through which Jesus will be available to future generations; a community ready to shed its blood for the glory of God.

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