Octave of Easter

Peace Be With You — Part 2

When the Risen Christ surprised his apostles in the upper room on the evening of the first day of the week, why did he feel the need to say "Peace be with you"? And what kind of peace was he offering them?

To figure out one reason, let's put ourselves in the apostles' shoes. After making extravagant promises to be faithful to Jesus no matter what, they had all let him down. Most had run away and left him to his death. St. Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus. St. John had stood at the foot of the Cross, but even he had fled in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now their master had returned from the grave wielding divine power. They may well have been terrified that he would wipe them out in a blaze of wrath!

Of course, that's not what happened. Jesus didn't kick down the door and take revenge on his fair-weather friends in a fit of rage. He had mercy on the weakness and sinfulness of his disciples and forgave their betrayal. This is in keeping with the essential mission of the Son, which is to reconcile mankind with the Father by befriending them and giving them his Holy Spirit:

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."
— John 20:21-23

Jesus forgave his apostles, thus making peace between them and God. Then he gave them a mission: to reconcile others with God by preaching the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation (the forgiveness of sins). In this sacrament, the successors of the apostles (bishops and priests) offer us peace with God the Father through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in the words of absolution the priest speaks in Confession:

God, the Father of mercies, through the Death and Resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God for making peace with us when we didn't deserve it!

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.