Peace in the Risen Lord. This salutation reflects the first words Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night of his resurrection as well as the following Sunday: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26).
Immediately afterward Jesus showed them his hands and his side (Jn 20:20) – the bodily wounds of his crucifixion. The Lord indeed is alive! His presence instilled strength and encouragement in the fearful disciples who had hidden behind locked doors.
The Risen Jesus would continue to appear to the early Christians for the next 40 days until his Ascension. The Risen Jesus is neither a story nor a fable (see Mt 28:11-15); his continuous appearances cement the faith of the nascent church. Thus since the time of the Apostles until today, the church gives witness to the crucified Jesus who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25).
I wish to emphasize two ways in which the Risen Jesus is still present to his church – in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of reconciliation. It can be said that these sacraments are truly “Easter sacraments” – sacraments intimately linked to Christ’s death and resurrection. As the Risen Christ was present to the Apostles on the night of his resurrection, so he is still present through these sacraments today. They instill Christ’s love, mercy and peace by forgiving sin, instilling hope, and conveying his ongoing and encouraging presence to the church and humanity.
So, on the night before he died, Jesus had given the church the Eucharist, linking it intimately with his sacrifice on the cross. The Eucharist is called the “unbloody” or sacramental sacrifice of Christ. It is the sacrament par excellence of his real presence. The Risen Jesus is truly and fully present in his divinity and humanity, night and day, until the end of time, in every tabernacle and at every Mass.
Also on the night of his resurrection, Jesus had given the church the sacrament of reconciliation. John, in his Gospel, recounts this apparition in which Jesus says, “‘…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’” (Jn 20:21-23). Just as the Risen Lord’s presence had instilled strength and encouragement in the fearful disciples on the night of the resurrection; so, too, do the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation instill strength, encouragement and healing.
Jesus has not left us; he is truly present – Emmanuel (see Mt 1:23)! So let us remember that the Risen Jesus still embraces us in our sinfulness and unworthiness in order to heal us so that we, too, like the early disciples, may be witnesses of his saving, loving and healing presence.
Father Matthew Weber is pastor of Holy Cross Parish, Bridgeton.