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Bishop's Column

Bishop Barbarito Column

March 29, 2024

Peace Is the Message of Easter

There are many striking works of art depicting the scene of Christ’s Resurrection. Some have Jesus rising in glorious splendor with the guards at the tomb stumbling and falling over. Some have Jesus regally clothed holding a victorious banner with a cross on it. There are some with Jesus surrounded by angels as he rises from the tomb, and others, especially the Greek icons, with Jesus reaching down into Hades to rescue the dead. However, as striking as the scenes are, and as much as they try to capture the awesomeness of the Resurrection, they are simply works of art. 

The Resurrection, as narrated in the Gospels, did not occur in such a dramatic manner. In all four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Risen Lord is found through an empty tomb. Angels announce the Resurrection of Christ and some, as in the Gospel of St. Matthew, appear in splendor. The scene of Christ rising from the dead simply does not exist in the Gospels, as the Resurrection is a reality that goes beyond time and space and cannot be captured in words. Christ does not simply come back to life, as does Lazarus or the young child Jesus raises from the dead, but He comes to the fullness of life in the Resurrection. The Resurrection changes the course of history as it glorified the human body of Christ.

What is present in the Gospels is the image of the Risen Christ, who appears, not in dazzling glory and splendor, but very much as He did to his apostles and disciples as he walked this earth. In the Gospel of St. Luke, the two Marys encounter Jesus after they received a message of His rising from angels at the tomb, but Jesus’ immediate appearance to them is much like it was before His Death and Resurrection. In the Gospel of St. John, the Risen Christ encounters Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, but she does not even recognize, at first, who He is. We see this in the account of the Gospel of St. Luke regarding the men on their way to Emmaus who encounter the Risen Jesus but also do not recognize Him.

The appearance of Jesus to His apostles on the evening of Easter Sunday after the Resurrection is a most fitting one. He appears to them in the upper room, even though the doors of the room were locked, and announces to them “peace.” It is this announcement of peace which embodies what the Resurrection has brought about, not only for the apostles and disciples, but for all of us. Through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, Christ has conquered death and opened the doors of eternal life for all men and women from the beginning of time. Sin has been conquered and true peace now becomes a reality. Christ’s Resurrection is not a matter of His casting aside our humanity, which He had taken to Himself. In His Resurrection, He continues to embrace our humanity through His risen body and offers to all of us the peace of that reality now open to us. The Lord continues to accompany us on our way, truly heart to heart.

When Jesus announces peace to His apostles in the upper room on Easter Sunday, He immediately shows them His hands and His side. The wounds of Jesus are very visible in His risen body and are now part of it for all eternity. By showing them His wounds, he shows them His vulnerability and embraces it, with our vulnerability, even more. Jesus has taken a wounded glorified body to Himself in a manner that conquers sin through the everlasting effects of His Cross. St. Peter says that it is Christ, through His wounds, that we are healed. His visible vulnerability is part of His life in the Trinity. The glory of the Resurrection Jesus shows in these wounds, and embraces us in a manner that unites us more to Him. The peace Jesus has given to each and every one of us is not as the world gives peace but as He gives peace. The world sees peace as coming from power, and Jesus gives peace through the power of love. We so much yearn for true peace in our war-torn world, in our confused nation and in our own personal and family lives. 

The message of Easter is indeed one of peace, and true peace. As Jesus announced that peace to His apostles, He announces it to us. That peace is found in believing in Jesus and His love for us, by His embracing our humanity even to the point of suffering for us, leaving the visible signs of His wounds in a permanent manner. The wounds of Jesus are no longer an affliction for Him but the true means of our healing. We need to place our wounds into His and have faith in the fullness of life, which He has given to us. Only in this manner are we instruments of peace for ourselves, each other, our families and for our world.

It is the power of Christ’s love that heals and not the love of power, which only destroys. Christ has embraced our vulnerability and, in so doing, urges us not to fear. While we surely can reflect upon the glorious artistic scenes of the Resurrection of Christ bursting forth from death, in faith we know that His Resurrection is not His coming back from the dead but a Resurrection that joins us more closely to Him and brings us peace. May we hear the Risen Jesus announce to each of us “peace,” and may we experience that true peace in our lives. It is by His wounds that we are healed!

Peace be with you!

Most Reverend Gerald Barbarito