Four or five years ago, at our Subpriory Retreat, John Quinn, the retired Archbishop of San Francisco, offered some remarkable reflections on the gospel story of Easter. He described Mary Magdalene at the tomb. St. John tells us this early in the morning, so it was dark. But, lest we missed the point, he adds, “…while it was yet dark.” Then he mentions the tomb. Another dark place. Dark times three. Then Mary notices the tomb is empty. What else can go wrong?
Here’s a portrait of the Church, Archbishop Quinn observed. And a portrait of the disciple – dark, disordered, disarrayed, disappointed. John and Peter come running to the tomb. More disorder. Chaos, in fact. No one’s walking, women are wandering around in the dark.
If you have been reading Jeffrey Little’s letters regarding activities in our Order, or following current events in the news, this scene at Jesus’ tomb might seem an apt description of what we see taking place around us.
What alters the landscape is the appearance of Jesus. First, his intimate exchange with Mary – “Mary,” “Rabboni! My dear Master!” (A term of endearment.) Then, that evening, when the disciples have locked themselves in the Upper Room (not from sorrow, St. John tells us, but fear), Jesus appears and, no fewer than three times, says, “Peace.”
Vatican II observes “in the earthly liturgy we participate in the heavenly liturgy, celebrated in the heavenly Jerusalem.” Although our world is passing away, the Eucharist allows us to open a window onto eternity and touch what is everlasting and unchanging. Jesus comes into our midst to make all things new, wipe away tears, and give us peace. On Easter night Jesus stood among his disciples; he stands among us at the Mass.
But Jesus not only shows the disciples the signs of his passion, he gives them his peace. When we think of peace, the first things to come to mind are probably the political treaties that govern the relations among nations. But as we look around these days, these fragile alliances are testimony to the world’s very dim understanding of peace – and they stand as a very good reason for Jesus to offer an alternative vision when he greets his disciples.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus promises a special reward to peacemakers, the individuals who take Christ’s gift and touch the world with the two qualities that best characterize life in God’s kingdom – sight of God and union with God. In the gospel reading for Mercy Sunday, Jesus told his disciples – and this means he tells us – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” To touch the world with his peace.
As you read this, our brothers Jeffrey and Richard Grant are attending a meeting that will strive to bring some order – and peace – to the internal concerns that currently beset our Order. Many of the other members of the Western Association are preparing for this year’s Pilgrimage to Lourdes, which is, perhaps, a more visible expression of our peace-making vocation.
One of the first activities of the Pilgrimage is the foot-washing of the malades. This reflection of Jesus’ love for his disciples reminds us that following Christ involves service, and looks forward to the Cross, an abyss of humiliation, motivated by love
I beg you to pray for us on our Pilgrimage, and – during the days of this blessed Easter Season – to rejoice in the Peace of our Risen Lord!
by Father Reginald Martin OP