20150524 Pentecost B

The disciples were in a locked room fearing for their lives when Jesus appeared to them and said “Peace be with you.” They were excited that they were with seeing him again. Jesus repeated it “Peace be with you.” Why did Jesus repeat Peace be with you?
John Pilch wrote: “The Hebrew word for “peace” is very rich and has at least eight different meanings. When Jesus says to his frightened disciples, “Peace to you,” he declares a factual reality. His resurrection has gained unshakable peace for them; hence it is inappropriate to translate his statement as a wish: “[May] peace be to [or with] you.” Jesus is not wishing them peace; he declares with firm assurance that they possess it, hence they should discard all fear.”
Think about that for a moment. Jesus’ resurrection gained peace – no longer any reason to fear or worry – just live in his peace. But that is hard to do. It took the disciples a while to realize that peace. At Pentecost that they realized real peace and then boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. They went from hiding for fear of the authorities to going out into the streets and into the temple proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. It was only because of Pentecost that they had the courage to leave their hiding place.
When Jesus repeated “Peace be with you.” the second time, he went on to say “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. ”
When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, it was unlike anything people had ever seen. They didn’t know how to describe it. The best description was that it sounded like a strong driving wind that filled the entire house. There was also what appeared to them as tongues of a fire that parted and came to rest on each one of them.
After this, they were no longer hiding behind locked doors fearing for their lives. They preached the Gospel that Jesus was raised from the dead. They had seen him, talked with him and ate with him. He was alive!
It changed their lives and changed the world forever!
It can change our lives too if we are willing to let it. The disciples waited for the Holy Spirit as Jesus told them. They were looking forward to the Holy Spirit and wanted the Holy Spirit to come to them. They wanted the peace that Jesus promised them. And they willing let the power of the Holy Spirit descend upon them in a powerful way.
What would happen if we let the Holy Spirit totally consume our lives today? Would it be like the disciples? They spoke in other languages; they healed the sick and had the power to forgive sins. These gifts are present even today. The forgiveness of sins is given by the priest in the sacrament of penance.
Today we remember the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples. That was a world changing event. Why doesn’t that same power work in us today?
By the time Paul wrote to the Galatians, things were already different. The zeal for the Gospel was less than it was for the early disciples. Paul provides instructions on how to live in the Spirit. He starts by identifying the desires of the flesh; another word for world. Then Paul admonishes them to avoid these desires of the world. But Paul doesn’t stop there. There is hope for the future. He said “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Paul gives the characteristics of a Christian living in the world.
Paul started the list of virtues with love. Christ said to Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. He understood that love was the greatest of the commandments. That’s why Paul started the list with love.
He continued with joy. Everyone wants to be around a happy person. But a person who has joy is different from someone who is happy. Joy is closely related to gladness and happiness, although joy is more a state of being than an emotion; a result of choice. Joy is part of being a Christian. Joy is a result of peace; but only the peace that God can give.
The next virtue that Paul lists is peace. Jesus appeared to the disciples and said “Peace be with you.” It was so important to Jesus that he said it again. Peace is very elusive today. We always talk of peace; peace in the Middle East, peace between Israel and Palestine, peace between Russia and the United States, peace between ISIS and the rest of the world, and the list goes on and on. We even desire peace within our families where family members haven’t spoken to each other for decades.
Peace is so elusive and does not satisfy even when the fighting parties negotiate and sign a peace treaty. One party is always dissatisfied with some part of the agreement. This kind of peace is just an absence of war and fighting with each other.
But the peace that Jesus gave to the disciples was different. It was a peace that was deep and lasting. I believe that the real peace from God is what gave the disciples the courage on Pentecost. They no longer cared for the things of this world because they had peace in the promise of eternal life.
Paul’s writing is as much for us today as it was to the Galatians. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” That is difficult. It has been difficult throughout all of history. Consider the history of the Israelites. The desires of the world would become too much and they would fall away from God. Then they would repent and follow God and receive his blessings. The desires of the world are still with us today and will be in the future. We must strive to follow the Spirit in all that we do.
We find true peace in serving others. The Spirit leads us to help the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger and the immigrant. Pope Francis is a shining example of serving others.
Will we follow the Spirit and reach out to the homeless person or the immigrant? Or will the desires of the world consume us to the point that we are too busy to bother with them? Will we follow the Spirit in mending broken relationships within our families and friends? Or will the desires of the world in jealousy, envy and selfishness keep us apart? Will we let the peace that only comes from God completely overwhelm us so we have the courage to stand up for truth?
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Deacon or Priest will ask us to exchange a Sign of Peace. When we say “Peace be with you” will we really mean the peace that God gives?
Peace be with you.

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