By: Deacon Charles Rohrbacher
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is truly Risen!
When Jesus appeared to the disciples hiding behind locked doors in the upper room, their first reaction was fear and apprehension. Having run away, (except for John) when Jesus was condemned and crucified (or, in the case of Peter) having denied him outright, they had no way of knowing how their Risen Lord would treat them? Would he castigate them for their cowardice and lack of faith? Condemn Peter for his denial? Would they be punished? Or worse?
Instead, on that first Easter, Jesus said, “Peace.” “Do not be afraid.” Despite the egregiousness of their failure, Jesus chose to forgive them. Jesus ushered in the new life of resurrection not with recrimination and reprisal, but with forgiveness and reconciliation.
If repentance and contrition for our offenses are how we prepare for our celebration of the Paschal Mystery at Easter, then forgiveness and reconciliation with those who have offended against us are the appropriate response to the great mystery and gift of Jesus’ death on the Cross and Resurrection from the dead. This seems especially appropriate given the bitter divisions and outright hatred that are a reality in so much of this world, in our society and, sad to say, even in our Church. I cherish these words of the Church Father, St. Gregory of Nazianzus on the Easter season:
The day of resurrection, an auspicious beginning! Radiantly let us celebrate this feast, giving one another the kiss of peace. Let us greet as brothers and sisters even those who hate us and not merely those souls which in their charity have rendered us some service or suffered for us. Let us pardon one another in honor of the resurrection, forgetting our mutual wrongs.
Bitterness, resentment, enmity and anger between husbands and wives; parents and children; brothers and sisters; between men and women; racial, religious and ethnic groups and especially between Christians is nothing less than the death of love, of forbearance, of understanding and peace.
Our baptism into Jesus’ death should be the death of unforgiveness and estrangement, and the means by which we let go of every wrong and die even to justifiable resentment and anger. In the words of the Exsultet which proclaims:
The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty.
Our baptism into Jesus’ resurrection should be the forgiveness and welcome in peace and reconciliation even of those who would be our enemies – even if that welcome and kiss of peace can only, because of this fallen world, be accomplished in our own hearts.
May this Easter season be a time of reconciliation and peace for each of us. May Christ, our true God, heal everything that divides and separates us from each other.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is truly Risen!