Easter Joy and Peace

Sea of Galilee
Synagogue in Capernaum
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Al Masih Qam! He Haqan Qam! (Arabic)
The Easter message is loud and clear. In the reading for Monday, the women are hurrying away from the tomb. Matthew says that they went away with awe and great joy. Awe—a sense of wonder—enables us to grasp the inner meaning of events. Joy the quintessential Christian virtue. In fact, Bernard Häring, the late great moral theologian, says that joy is the cornerstone of Christian witness. They were filled with awe and joy (not violent shock and awe!) because their nonviolent teacher had conquered sin and death.
When he appeared, Jesus first said peace be with you—shalom, fullness of being, fullness of life. Shalom, salaam, peace. This is the abiding message of the Risen Jesus. When he greeted the very people who had denied and abandoned him, he did not say, “Thanks a lot, you worthless traitors!” He said, “Peace be with you.”
Then, we get the third dimension of Easter hope. “Do not be afraid!” I am risen. I have conquered and will conquer sin and death. “You have been sitting around fearing for your lives ever since they crucified me. But I am telling you not to be afraid.” All is well and all will be well. Even though you are living under Roman occupation (Israeli occupation, American occupation) and are oppressed, all will be well. “I will make all things new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.”
He then challenges them. Tell the others that I will meet them in Galilee—the backwater locus of Jesus early ministry. He would not meet them in the territory of the Judeans who had crucified him. He wanted to return to Galilee, his native land.
Galilee where Jesus worked and grew in wisdom age and grace with Mary and Joseph. Galilee where he preached his inaugural sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth—“I have come to give sight to the blind and set captives free.” Galilee where he cure the possessed man in the synagogue. Galilee where he fished in the Sea of Galilee and called his first disciples as he walked by the seashore. Galilee where he fed 5,000 who had no bread. Galilee where he preached the core of his teaching—the Beatitudes. (By the way, Abuna Chacour reminds us that “blessed” is too weak of a translation. The word Jesus used means something more like “Get up off your duff and….”)
He would meet them in the land where everything started. The memory of the events in that land would remind the disciples of the core of his teaching—mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness.
Jesus rises up in his people, in his native land. Jesus will raise up the oppressed and give sight to the blind. Awe and joy, peace, and lack of fear! Jesus lives!

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