SHALOM! PEACE BE WITH YOU!

2nd Sunday of Easter          

            The term ‘lockdown’ has become part of our daily conversation. Also the terms connected or synonymous to it: like quarantine, isolation, solitary, holding cell. Of course, those terms are not only in common parlance now; rather, being locked down has become a sad reality of our lives.

            Same time last year – Easter season – we were also under ECQ. Last year we generally accepted that it was a “necessary evil,” or at the very least, a “hard pill to swallow.” But even then, we could not help but lament the fact that lockdown was severely impacting our lives and bringing hardships and difficulties for us. Our government is somehow telling us that ECQ or lockdown remains to be the “emergency solution” to this pandemic.

            Two thousand years ago there was a group of people who ‘quarantined’ or ‘locked down’ themselves. It was more of a “self-quarantine” or “self-imposed lockdown.” I am, of course, talking about the condition of the disciples after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today’s gospel passage, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, tells us that the disciples lock themselves in “for fear of the Jews.”

            We can easily identify ourselves with the disciples. In fact, we must find some resemblance of our situation with theirs: We are locked down and they have locked themselves in. It is in this light that we must see the meaning, significance, and relevance of today’s gospel message.

            Yes, that is how the gospel describes the disciples: they are hiding “for fear of the Jews.” But we might better say that the disciples lock themselves for fear of suffering Jesus’ fate. In the end, indeed, all fear is fear of death. I will go back to that point in a while…

            Today’s gospel reading does not only tell us about the locked doors and the fearful disciples hiding behind them. It also tells us about the One who comes. Despite the lock in or lock down, the gospel says, “Jesus came and stood in their midst.” The Risen Jesus comes in, despite the closed doors, to bring his disciples his peace and to give them the Holy Spirit. The risen Lord is able to penetrate the closed room where the disciples have locked themselves in. Jesus comes and invades their lives with his peace.

            The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ for peace is a most comprehensive word, covering the full realm of relationships in daily life and expressing an ideal state of life. Shalom can have more than twenty meanings or translations. It can mean as fulness of life, grace-filled life, share in God’s life. It can also mean as well-being, good will, fulfillment, harmony, prosperity – untouched by ill fortune. And of course, it means inner peace. Shalom refers to the best that God can give to enable a person to complete one’s life with happiness and a natural death.

            “Shalom… Peace be with you!” This is the message of the risen Lord to each of us. It is not just a passing greeting. It is not just “best wishes.” This is his message to us in the midst of this pandemic. This is his message to us as we are battered by storms, as we face troubles, hardships, and difficulties, as we confront financial problems and insecurities. This is his message to us as we struggle to find meaning and direction, as we grapple with doubts, confusions, and uncertainties, as we struggle with sadness, loneliness, and depression. This is his message to us as we are discouraged by failures, as we experience disappointments and frustrations, as we are disillusioned by what is happening in our country. This is his message to us as we are haunted by regrets about the past, as we are burdened with worries and fears about the future, as we are so fixated in the past and in the future, so much so that you miss living in the present, here and now.

            “Shalom… Peace be with you!” This is the message of the risen Lord. It is meant to assuage our fears. It is meant to assure us that the risen Lord is with us – no matter what. It is meant to make us feel secure in the presence of the risen Lord. It is meant to impart power that enables us to experience the kind of life God wants for us.

            Let us open our hearts to receive the peace of the risen Lord. We would only be able to experience this peace, this shalom, if we realize that, indeed, the Lord is risen – he is with us always and forever! Peace comes from believing that, indeed, we are unconditionally loved. Peace comes from knowing that Christ died and rose for us. Peace comes from finding our security, refuge, and home in God.

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