One of the most striking things to me in all the resurrection stories that we have been reading throughout Easter, is that Jesus appeared to his disciples in the resurrection and the very first he says is, “peace be with you.” And then the immediate next thing he says is, “peace be with you”. “Peace be with you”… what a relief the Apostles must have had not only to hear those words but to hear Jesus insist on those words… for the fear and sorrow and pain of the crucifixion to be suddenly transformed into peace within the hearts. And so for us it is worth remembering how powerful the sign of peace should be when we turn to each other every Sunday and say, “peace be with you”. We ourselves get to bless each other with the peace of Christ, the peace that has conquered sin and death and that we hope to abide in for all eternity. What a beautiful moment to take part in each and every mass, something to do with intention and meaning in our hearts… and all the more so when it was given to a friend, to a family member, to the people that are important parts of our lives.
But, as always, there are greater and more wonderful depths that the liturgy leads us to… so close your eyes for a minute. I want you to think for a moment of a person who has hurt you a great deal in your life. Think of whatever it was that they did or that they did not do, and face all the emotion that comes with that. Now imagine that as you turn to give the sign of peace, that person is the one standing next to you. Would you be able to say those words, “peace be with you”, knowing what those words mean and saying them with integrity, to that person?\dots\ You can open your eyes. “Peace be with you” isn’t so simple of a phrase anymore, is it?
You see, the sign of peace that we give each other isn’t a mere greeting or acknowledgment of each other’s presence\dots\ it is intimately united with what Christ says next, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” And as we have all encountered in life, there are times and people that while we know we should forgive them — and in fact that as Christians we are obligated to forgive them — there are times that we find it beyond our strength to truly do. That is why we were given the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the sanctifier, the one who gathers us together as one body, one spirit in Christ. And while that person we struggle to forgive isn’t usually standing next to us, by our shared baptisms they are still a member of this body of Christ. The offering of peace may fail to pass our lips for the time being, but by the grace of God it is spoken by the Spirit until the day that we can make those words our own.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.