The Easter mystery seems to be becoming more complex. Some scripture scholars debate the fact of a corporeal resuscitation of Jesus body. Others staunchly defend the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Endless discussion about endless possibilities only clouds my thinking.
What I do know is that something wonderful happened that first Easter and Jesus’ followers and the world have never been the same. Merton says that we end up confusing ourselves when we get tied up in theological debates. We acknowledge the Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Do I need to be able to explain the intricacies of the mystery of the Trinity? Mystery defies definition.
I have been using Father Raymond Brown’s Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year as a guide to scripture, especially during Lent-the Passion narratives and the Easter accounts. Renown scripture scholar that he was, Father Brown had a burning desire to preach the scriptures in Eucharistic celebrations. His keen insights in this book, which is a reissue of previous booklets, helps us to deepen our understanding of the Risen Jesus.
I was especially struck this morning when I read Father Brown’s account of the resurrection stories in John. Light bulbs went off. Fireworks exploded! John’s Gospel often contrasts light and darkness. The disciples come out of darkness after the resurrection and come into the Light–belief in the risen Jesus.
We have just finished commemorating a week where betrayal and abandonment of Jesus was a common occurrence. His faithful followers fled into the night. They denied him. They left him alone on the cross.
Father Brown says that “Peace to you” . . . in 20:19:
[G]oes beyond a greeting because of what Jesus proclaimed at the Last Supper. “Peace is my farewell to you; my ‘peace’ is my gift to you; and I do not give it to you as the world gives it”–words Jesus coupled with the statement that if he was going away, he was also “coming back to you.”(14:27-28, 249-250).
Think about it! Jesus was hauled before a kangaroo court by the chief priests and the Romans. He had already told Peter to put away his sword. He could have called on legions of angels but preferred to absorb the evil to show us the way–nonviolent love. He was crucified between two revolutionaries. He forgave his persecutors.
Now betrayed, abandoned and crucified, Jesus’ first words are words of peace–a gift he promised to his followers. This is the ultimate model of nonviolence. Jesus could have said, in a loving way (tough love to be exact), “Where have you been. They stripped me, mocked me, scourged me, spit in my face, and then crucified me. As I hung suffocating on the cross, being jeered and mocked by everyone, you were hiding out. Peter, you are such a coward,. You denied me three times, not once but three times, in the courtyard. You did not give a care about me. You were looking out for yourselves.”
Rather, Jesus chose to make them aware of his risen presence. He bestowed his peace on them. Peace here is shalom–a deep abiding peace, a sense of total well being.
John is also talking to his community and to us today. Jesus was sent by Abba God. The Risen Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into us and sends us forth.
As disciples of the nonviolent Jesus, the Mercy of God, we are gifted with the peace which only the Risen Jesus can give. Dwelling in the peace of the Risen Jesus is essential for our discipleship. In peace, we proclaim the Good News that nonviolent love trumps the powers and principalities every time. Life Incarnate overcomes death.
In Seasons of Celebration, Merton says, “But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ. We now find in ourselves a strength that is not our own, and it is freely given to us whenever we need it. . . (Cited in Lent and Easter: Wisdom from Thomas Merton, at 104.)