REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

“PEACE BE WITH YOU” (εἰρήνη ὑμῖν): THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING

First Reading: Acts 3:13-15,17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 4:2,4,7,9
Second reading: 1 John 2:1–5
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22–40
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“Eirēnē” (εἰρήνη) is the Greek word for peace, and in this context, it conveys not merely the absence of conflict or turmoil but the presence of wholeness, harmony, and reconciliation. It is a peace that surpasses understanding, a peace that flows from the divine source of all peace – Jesus Christ himself. Also, the word “ὑμῖν” (hymin) is a second-person plural pronoun in the dative case. It signifies that Jesus is addressing not just one individual but the entire community of disciples, and by extension, all believers throughout history. This peace is not meant for a select few but is offered freely to all who receive it with open hearts. Little wonder John Lennon, a British musician, singer, and songwriter in reflecting his personal philosophy and commitment to peace activism, avers: “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” Beloved friends in Christ, on this Third Sunday of Easter, we are called to reflect on the gift of peace freely given to the Christian community by Christ after his resurrection and how we are to cooperate with that gift in our world today.

The expression “Peace be with you” in Greek: “εἰρήνη ὑμῖν” (eirēnē hymin) emanating from the divine lips of the Saviour in the post-resurrection accounts is recorded once in Luke (cf. Lk. 24:36) and twice in John (Jn. 20:19; 20:21), and consequently, these words have been used at Mass (at the beginning by the Bishop), and after the Lord’s Prayer by the Priest. So, why did Jesus bequeath the gift of peace on his disciples, as we read in this Sunday’s gospel passage? Was this just a conventional greeting at that time? Or does this go on to convey a deeper significance?

Recall that with Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and death, his disciples were filled with fear, confusion, and grief. They had witnessed their beloved teacher and master, whom they believed was the Christ being betrayed by Judas and arrested; they all ran away and abandoned him except John and some women who stood till the “end” (at the cross), even Peter denied him three times. Their master was crucified and buried, and amid this reality, they were grappling with the uncertainty of what the future held. Their world was shaken, and they were likely experiencing a range of emotions, including doubt and anxiety. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are startled and frightened, thinking they are seeing a ghost. To reassure them of his identity, Jesus shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him, and he eats with them after he had greeted them with the words “Peace be with you.”

This greeting “Peace be with you” was not merely a customary salutation but carried deep spiritual significance because, in the Jewish context, the word for peace, “Shalom,” conveys not just the absence of conflict but also wholeness, well-being, and harmony, as earlier stated. By speaking peace to his disciples, Jesus was offering them comfort, reassurance, and restoration. He was acknowledging their inner turmoil and offering them the “peace that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Therefore, “peace be with you” signifies reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration of relationship with God and one another. Despite the disciples’ desertion and denial of him during his crucifixion, Jesus extends to them a message of peace, signalling his forgiveness and his desire to restore their relationship. Also, Jesus’ words of peace were not just for the disciples’ personal comfort but also for their empowerment for mission. In John 20:21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” He commissions them to continue his work of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and the peace he offers them equips them for this task, just as he equally tells them at the end of today’s Gospel passage, “You are witnesses to this.” As witnesses, their missionary endeavour is defined – as preaching the Good News.

Just as Jesus greets his disciples with the words of peace, Peter extends the same message to the crowd in Jerusalem as heard in today’s First Reading. However, this peace is not merely a sentiment; it is intimately connected to repentance and forgiveness. Peter declares, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). Here, we see the link between repentance and the experience of true peace – peace with God and peace within ourselves. Repentance, as Peter emphasizes, is not merely feeling sorry for our sins but turning away from them and turning towards God. It is a radical reorientation of our hearts and lives, rooted in humility, contrition, and a desire for reconciliation. Through repentance, we acknowledge our need for God’s forgiveness and open ourselves to receive the peace that only Christ can offer. Furthermore, Peter’s message of repentance and peace extends beyond individual salvation to the broader context of societal conversion. He calls the crowd to “repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19). Here, we see the connection between personal repentance and the renewal of society – a renewal characterized by justice, mercy, and reconciliation.

This goes a long way in explaining why at the beginning of the Mass, the bishop prays the same words of Christ “peace be with you” to the worshipping community, and also before the reception of the Holy Eucharist, these words are heard on the lips of the priest, which prepares the people for reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration of relationship with God and one another. That is why he then goes further to invite the faithful to “offer each other the sign of peace.” Sadly, this “sign of peace” has been trivialized by some Catholics at Mass or even seen as unimportant, but I won’t go into that now, however, let its significance change our mentality, henceforth.

Beloved friends in Christ, just as Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, so too are we called to be ambassadors of reconciliation and instruments of peace in our world today. Let us cultivate a deep sense of peace in our lives – a peace that flows from our reconciliation with God through Christ. Let us seek to embody this peace in our relationships, communities, and world, actively pursuing reconciliation and healing wherever there is brokenness and division, by so doing, the words of John Lennon become practical –  “make peace, do peace, be peaceful, and give away peace.” This goes on to reflect our knowledge of God – walking in obedience to God’s commandments, knowing that true discipleship is marked by a life of obedience and love, as reflected in the Second Reading.

Therefore, as we journey together as Christ’s disciples, may the triad of peace, repentance, and obedience inspire us. May we continue to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection in our lives and our communities, and may we bear witness to the love and grace of God in all that we do. May the peace of Christ (the eirēnē) that transcends all understanding dwell richly in our hearts, and may we be faithful stewards of the peace, repentance, and obedience that he has entrusted to us.

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Seminário Padre Pedro Magnone, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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Ogbankwa Ann
Ogbankwa Ann
1 month ago

Thank you Padre. For we to have peace, there has to be obedience followed by forgiveness, then true peace will follow. You’re blessed.

Eghe
Eghe
1 month ago

Amen

Phyllis Joseph Nweke
Phyllis Joseph Nweke
1 month ago

Amen

Emeka Odugu
Emeka Odugu
1 month ago

Amen!
Thanks Padre for the beautiful homily.
May the peace of Christ renew our hope in Christ, our faith as Christians and our commitment to service of God and love for one another.

Ufy
Ufy
1 month ago

Amen.

Nneka casmira
Nneka casmira
1 month ago

Thanks for the homily í

Philomena
Philomena
1 month ago

May the Peace of God, which transcends all human understanding abide with us, in our families and work place. Help us to be ambassadors of reconciliation and instruments of peace in our broken world May we practice the Peace, Repentance and Obedience taught by Our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Merci beaucoup Fr.

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