The gift that every human being – and our whole world – needs most is the gift of peace. This wonderful gift can only come from the One who is the Prince of Peace (cf. Is 9:6), the One at whose birth the hosts of heaven praised God with the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14). Jesus Christ is the One who has reconciled all things, “making peace by the blood of his Cross” (Col 1:20).
With the celebration of Easter, we rejoice that the Prince of Peace, through his death on the Cross, has brought us peace. Risen, he comes to his disciples and imparts this stupendous gift, as we read twice in today’s Gospel: “Peace be with you.” Then, to underline the connection between the gift of peace and his death on the Cross, he shows them his hands and his side. It is as if he is graphically confirming the fact that it is through his sacred wounds that he has obtained for us this peace. What Jesus has won by his death, and which he now offers at his Resurrection, is true reconciliation with God, a reconciliation that makes harmony with other people and with oneself possible.
Without this reconciliation, this gift of peace, there cannot be true peace on earth. When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, he told her: “Mankind will not find peace until it turns with trust to My mercy” (Diary 300). “Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart and I will fill it with peace” (Diary 1074).
On the evening of Easter Sunday, as the Risen Lord gave the ineffable gift of peace, he also instituted a Sacrament through which we can all receive his peace. He knew that there will be generation after generation of people who will not meet him physically, so he instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a divine channel of his abundant mercy. He did this when he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
When the Protestant reformers rejected this Sacrament, claiming that Confession was a human invention, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the Church’s faith, quoting the words of Jesus himself. “The Lord … instituted the Sacrament of Penance, principally when after his Resurrection he breathed upon his disciples and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ [Jn 20:22]. The universal consensus of the Fathers has always acknowledged that by so sublime an action and such clear words the power of forgiving and retaining sins was given to the Apostles and their lawful successors [bishops and priests] for reconciling the faithful who have fallen after Baptism” (DS 1670).
When we accept the mercy of God and put our trust in Jesus Christ, like the early Christians did, we are set free to live as children of God, for, as St. John tells us in today’s second reading, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.” “Faith,” he adds, is “the victory that conquers the world.” When we put our trust in the world, it fills us with false promises that leave us disappointed, and we end up conquered by the world. But when we put our trust in the Lord, who has conquered death itself, the world has no more power over us. We conquer the lies and temptations of the world when we turn to the Lord. How powerful we become when we humble ourselves before him and renew our faith, saying, Jesus, I trust in You!
This was the experience of the early Church, as described in today’s first reading. Because of the gift of peace from the Risen Lord, which is essentially reconciliation with God, they were able to live in harmony with one another. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” This is what the true reconciliation with God, namely true peace, brings about. The experience of St. Thomas, of St. Faustina, of the early Church, of all the Saints, is offered to us as well on this feast of Divine Mercy.
Do I put my trust in the world with its false promises or in the Lord who gives me eternal life? Have I experienced that without true reconciliation I cannot have inner peace? Can I attest that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a divine channel of Jesus’ abundant mercy?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.