The Octave Day of Easter
A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The work of our Redemption, accomplished through the sufferings of our blessed Lord, is briefly summed up as the recovery of our peace. Just as after their fall from grace and beatitude, our first parents discovered the consequence of their disobedience in the newfound experience of conflict—conflict with the serpent, jealousy and ill will amongst themselves, conflict with the very land which once had freely provided their life, and most terrible of all, murderous conflict between their children—so in restoring us to life, Jesus is very clear that His work has been to recover our lost peace. “Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” Peace, after all, is the name of His kingdom: He is the Prince of Peace. And when He appeared on earth to establish that kingdom among us, it was with proclamations of Peace that the angels heralded His arrival: “Peace on earth, and good will amongst men.”
The question, then, that stands over this Easter season for us is how are we to understand peace, and how are we to receive and to share it? Peace describes our liberation from the anxiety and distress that leads to open conflict, and so too it means the life of harmony and fellowship in which fears are overcome and community prospers. Peace must therefore ultimately be the outcome of forgiveness and reconciliation, the reconstitution of the bonds of a fully aware and stable society. Peace is the very fabric of life itself.
And yet there is a great challenge to us, a cost required, if we are to claim that good life and to know it for ourselves. Consider the scene: “the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.” And at first, Christ’s own appearing does little to assuage those fears—only with the demonstration of His wounds do their fears begin to subside. We must each confront, with honesty and humility, the fears we harbour within us, and so too we must muster such courage as to desire a real and new freedom from those fears, if we are to find our way into the kingdom of God. And in order to make any progress, we must first see what such freedom and peace should mean: that our life is no longer to be viewed in isolation from our neighbour, and that we can have no notion of salvation simply as ‘my own’. The kingdom of peace means we are each saved as part of a body politic, God’s holy city, the society of peace. Peace requires that our many divisions be overcome by the love of God. That is why Christ’s proclamation of Peace comes immediately with His gift of forgiveness: “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” The church, the society of His Peace, must bear within itself the gift and means of reconciliation: not, we must be clear, to make my conscience feel better about myself again, but as the means of finding joy in the common life shared with God and neighbour.
Only then, only as restored to peace, do we truly begin to know and to live out the triumph of our faith: as St. Paul tells us, “Whatsover is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” As we learn to come to Jesus, seeking His mercy, the water and blood of His sacrifice, we discover that victory does not mean self-preservation, but rather the birth of a new world: one in which all the conflicts, all the harms and fears of our fallen darkness are overcome by the wounds of His own body. And therefore He calls to us, as to His own people, “Peace be unto you: As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”