The Resurrection of Christ and the Shalom of God March 31, 2024

Several years ago, I was in Chicago the weekend after Easter. As I often do when I am in a metropolitan city, I decided to attend Mass at the Cathedral – in this case Holy Name Cathedral. One of the advantages of of sitting in the pews and touring these beautiful churches is that I often come away with ideas or inspirations that can be implemented at the parish where I currently serve as pastor. In this case, the inspiration came from an excellent homily preached by a well-known priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago, Fr. Louis Cameli. Recently, Fr. Lou and I were at the same conference on environmental stewardship and Catholic teaching. I took the opportunity to thank him for his great homily and the inspiration I drew from it.

At the heart of Fr. Lou’s homily – preached on Divine Mercy Sunday – is the transformative encounter of the risen Christ and his disciples in the upper room on Easter Sunday. As Fr. Lou painted the scene, he emphasized the utter loss and despair that many of Jesus’s disciples were experiencing. One betrayed him, one denied him, and all but John abandoned him. When all appears lost, the risen Lord comes through the locked doors of the upper room with a message of hope – peace be with you! As Fr. Lou beautifully noted, our notion of peace in English does not capture the depth of God’s gift offered through the death and resurrection of his son. Rather, Shalom better captures the gift of the risen Christ. This deep peace – the Shalom of God conveys – all is reconciled, all is renewed, all is restored – a fallen humanity now rests in the warm light of our risen Lord. Centuries ago, Julian of Norwich put it this way – “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

With joy, Christians celebrate the truth of the resurrection of Christ. In faith, we believe that in the fullness of time, our all powerful and transcendent God became human, lived within history and culture, and suffered and died out of the depth of God’s love for a lost and fallen humanity. In Lent, we journey to the desert, up to Jerusalem, to the upper room and the Last Supper, and along the way of the cross to Calvary. For those who have been to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, one of the things that immediately stands out is how close the place of Christ’s death is to the empty tomb where he was raised. Good Friday did not mark the end of the story of Jesus among us. As Good Friday moves into Holy Saturday Christ descends to the netherworld to gather and raise up those who have died in God. A famous ancient icon depicts this scene – the outstretched hand of the ascending Christ to those who hope for new life.

Pope John Paul II said years ago that we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song! By faith, we believe in a God who keeps his promises – God will never abandon his covenant – God will never abandon us. Peter, as we read in the Easter season, experiences this consoling truth when Jesus repairs Peter’s 3-fold denial of Jesus with a 3-fold assent of love. In a world so beset by violence, hatred, and polarization, it is easy to lose hope, to experience malaise, or even despair. But we have faith – faith in a God of goodness, light, and restoration. The victory of Christ is assured! As we proclaim at every Mass – Christ will come again to conquer hatred and violence and will establish for all eternity his Kingdom of Justice, Love, and Peace. I look forward in faith and in hope to this glorious day. Come Lord Jesus – come again to complete your work of redemption and restoration.

Lastly, how are Christians to live in this liminal time – the time between Christ’s resurrection and his second coming? Mary Magdalene is a wonderful guide for us – a hero of the Easter story and a model for all disciples. Mary lived as a close friend of Jesus – her love and devotion to Jesus were so strong that it takes her to the agonizing death of her friend on a cross. As she encounters her risen Lord, she clings to him so strongly that Jesus humorously exclaims – quit holding onto me, I have not yet ascended to the father. From this encounter, Mary runs with joy to tell the disciples – in this she is described in the Catholic tradition as the Apostle to the Apostles.

In a world that is wounded, worn, and aching, with God’s grace, we must live like Mary Magdalene. We must remain close to Jesus, we must ask for his mercy and grace, we must walk with Jesus on the path of sacrifice and suffering, and we must never abandon hope. Like the Apostle to the Apostles, we are called to be joyful witnesses to the resurrection of Christ and the Shalom of God that awaits those who believe.

Fr. Daniel