Peace: the Gift of Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter -2B, 08 April 2018
Acts 4:32-35//1John 5:1-6//John 20:19-31

On this Second Sunday of Easter we are also celebrating the Feast of the Divine Mercy instituted by the great St. John Paul II 18 years ago as “a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face with confidence in divine benevolence the difficulties and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come” (Congregation for Divine Worship, 23 May 2000). This Sunday of the Divine Mercy is not a new solemnity or feast, nor does it celebrate a new or separate mystery of redemption by Christ. As Octave or Eighth Day of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday leads into the continuing celebration of God’s love and mercy during Easter. Here we also discover the prophetic vision of St. John Paul II in the light of the gift of peace of Jesus more than 2000 years ago to His apostles.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”(Jn.20:19-23)

When St. John Paul II ordered the release to the public of the “third secret of Fatima” shortly before his death in early 2000, part of the revelations was a warning by the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three young visionaries of how the devil would aggressively target the destruction of family to mislead people from God. History has shown for so many years how the devil had lost in its efforts to mislead people away from God by using philosophy and letters along with technology. True enough as Our Lady at Fatima had warned, the devil is now working hard in destroying families to lead people away from God and from others. And it seems to be gaining some upper hand these days as we see younger generations regardless of creed and race have slowly turned away from God, spirituality and organized religion. Notice a seeming proportionality between disintegration of family and decline in the belief in God as young people could no longer see and experience Him or His relevance in this world marred with violence and injustice right inside the family where all forms of abuses happen. When there is no more love in the family, especially when couples separate by choice or by circumstances, it is so difficult for children to believe in a loving God. It is also difficult for boys and girls to hope in true love that lasts forever when men and women refuse to enter into sacramental marriage that calls for commitment. When the family as the basic unit of the society is destroyed, many other problems arise because that is when we have lost our value systems and relationships that are all based and perfected in God.

On that evening of the first day of the week, the apostles locked themselves in a house like a family for fear of the Jews. It is a beautiful imagery of that reality in our lives when our primary source of strength is our family. This is why we call our home in Filipino astahanan – to tahan means to stop crying. We stop crying from all kinds of pain when we find comfort in the company of our family in our home or tahanan. When there is a threat or any danger to us, we run home – tahanan – to seek protection from our family. Never bring war inside the family because the moment we quarrel in our home or tahanan, we become divided and fall apart. Thus, destroy ourselves. When we allow somebody to lord over us except Jesus Christ, when there is inequality, when there is favoritism, when there is injustice, when there is silence to what is right and good, then we destroy our unity. First we turn away from each other, then we turn away from God and become like Judas Iscariot, handing over our beloved into sufferings.

It is very sad how in some families and some circles of friends and communities where arrogance and superiority are the prevailing moods and spirit. Kindness and respect, even simple consideration for the other person are fast becoming obsolete. And the social media is partly to be blamed especially Facebook that has brought out the worst in us. How ironic that social media and the technology that spawned this were all devised to bring us together but have actually brought us all apart. Social media have become dumpsites of our excessive pride and narcissism, self-righteousness and self-entitlements that motivate fake news.

This Sunday of the Divine Mercy we are invited to turn back to God as a family or a community of believers by getting inside our hearts away from the chaos outside to wait for the coming of the Risen Lord to receive His gift of peace and most of all, His gift of the Holy Spirit that would animate us in facing the harsh realities of this selfish and sinful world. That image of the Divine Mercy we see in many churches is said to be the way Jesus looked like on that evening of the first day of the week when He appeared to His Apostles. In a vision to St. Faustina, the Risen Lord assures us of His immense love and mercy in these times of great difficulties and trials especially in our families and in the Church. The red and white rays of lights coming from His heart signify His gifts of mercy and forgiveness found in the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Eucharist that wash away our sins. No wonder that on that evening of the first day of the week, it is the power to forgive sins that was given by Jesus to His Apostles now shared with us. That commission was the same instruction He gave His disciples at the start of His ministry at Galilee when He told them to exorcise people possessed by demons. Exorcism is very much related with the ministry of reconciliation, of forgiving sins. We can only be of “one heart and mind” in Christ like the early believers (Acts 4:32) when we are able to turn away from sins as well as forgive those who have sinned to us. This eventually leads to the gift of peace Jesus had given on that Easter evening. It is a very difficult task that could lead to rejection, misunderstanding and even crucifixion like Jesus. May the beloved disciple console us on this Second Sunday of Easter as we struggle to work for peace and harmony in our family and community that “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.” (1Jn.5:4) Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta.Maria
Bulacan 3022