Let's put ourselves in this morning's Gospel scenario. On a Sunday evening, we are locked in an upper room, a bunch of scared, anxious people who can't quite figure out what's going on. In the midst of all this, Jesus walks in through the locked door and stands in the center of the room. We part ranks to stand around him in a circle of confusion and disbelief. Imagine our first thoughts? What's happening? Is this for real? Maybe we're seeing a ghost! I thought we locked the door! God, it's really Jesus! He was gone and now he's back! A flood of emotions engulfs us. These are our first thoughts and feelings.
Then second thoughts emerge. We start remembering the last time we saw Jesus : or more correctly, the last time Jesus saw us! Because he last saw us in the Garden of Olives as we were running away in the darkness of night when Jesus was arrested. Peter's memories are even worse: a rooster crowing and Jesus turning to look at him in saddened silence. But here is Jesus, in the same room with us. What's he thinking? What will he say to us? What will he do? He must hate us for letting him down. Will he give us 'hell'! The fishermen here might be thinking they should have stayed with their boats and fishing nets. The Sea of Galilee seemed a safer place to be than this upper room!
Jesus interrupts these reveries to say warmly, "Peace to you." The way he says it, it's more than a greeting, more than a prayer; it is an absolute blessing! Looking straight into our own eyes, he repeats the blessing: "Peace to you." No scolding, no lectures, no finger-pointing, no judgments. He simply forgives us, wiping away our guilt and embarrassment as if it never happened.
But before we can even catch our breath, Jesus spells out our life's work: "I am sending you to be forgivers and healers." But he warns, "If you fail to forgive, fail to offer healing, many shall remain wounded, crippled, imprisoned in their wrongdoing." With these few words, Jesus defines for us and for all times what it means to be a Christian.
If at any time we wonder where we stand as his modern-day disciples, Jesus gives us a significant yardstick: Do I bring healing to people's lives or do I judge and condemn them? Do I forgive people or do I hold grudges and look for revenge? Personally, I shudder every time I pray the Our Father and come to the words "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." When I ask God to forgive me in the same measure that I forgive others, I get very
None of us is perfect. Yet God has entrusted his kingdom to us by giving us the power to heal and the power to forgive. These are awesome gifts : the only gifts that can bring his kingdom to completion. With bowed heads, we pray:
"O Gracious One, help make our every thought, word and action demonstrate the healing and forgiving words of Jesus in the upper room that Sunday evening, the same words he spoke so often throughout his life, the very same words he speaks to us today: "Peace. Peace to you!" AMEN!