Forgiveness to Peace!

John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

How do we achieve inner peace? One man said by completing the things you have begun. And the other said, that is great. I have begun with two bags of potato chips and a chocolate cake. I feel great.

From this scripture we get the idea in the Liturgy that we can actually share peace with people. For the Lord appeared to a bunch of terrified men and women just like us who suffer from sickness, problems and issues, and said “Peace”. 

If today I asked you a question ‘do you believe in peace?’, what would you say? Of course I do believe in peace. Do you think there will be no more wars? I doubt.

Jesus had a tough idea to sell here. The very reason why people followed Jesus was that they believed Jesus will bring an end to the oppression and injustice brought to them by the Romans and the other occupiers. According to them Jesus was the Messiah because he has the ultimate power over the infidels of the time and oppressors of Israel.

We all have our ideas about peace in the world and how it should be brought about. We try by making peacetime treatises.

Right after Europe solemnly pledged not to go for war, it started the world war II. Every time mankind created better and powerful weapons to deter war we fought more. We want to create a world that is terrified of the things we make so that they will be afraid to start a war.

Just two days ago I read in the news that people of Afghanistan love “blood sports”. What is a blood sport? Sports that involve some way or another shedding of the blood of the other whether cock fight, dog fight, cat fight or human fight. The reason given for the love of such a sport is because fights and wars have become so much part of their lives, blood shedding sports are fun to watch.

In today’s story we find something very interesting Jesus does. First he appears out of nowhere in their midst and says, “peace”. Peace is a brought about by presence.  Peace is effect of being present to the other in the most vulnerable moment of their life. To appear before someone, to come in front of someone who might dislike you and disagree with you requires a lot of courage and inner strength. So in this story we have a lesson to learn. That is if you desire a world of peace slowly learn to be present to people who are afraid for various reasons, and might dislike you for what you are.

Again in this story we see Jesus showing them his scars from crucifixion. He does not hide the fact that he was wounded, hurt and given up on. There is no denial of one’s own pain and suffering but a willingness to acknowledge without anger of what one has experienced without blame or shame. IN another words a call to truthfulness of what you have experienced in the hurt rather than what others have done in the process.
Then he gives one of the most important lesson of all. Peace is the product of forgiveness. He says: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” Is it possible?

On Easter Sunday I said how much we all want to rule the world and have a control of the world we live in. Here is that control given to you and me by the Lord. “If you forgive, they are forgiven”. You are granted the soft power of this world today.

Two days ago I was talking with Sally Skardvedt about how we all get trapped in our own world of religious piety and fundamentalism. So when it came to the question of forgiveness a fundamentalist and someone who is unable to travel beyond the boundaries of beliefs to true faith will ask, “if our sins are not forgiven by God who will”.  And then she said if that is heard by a buddhist monk he will say, “we forgive”. It is simple and theologically right. Because this is what the Lord says in the scripture today.

“If you forgive, God will”. Peace is the product of your willingness to forgive.

After the repentance and renewal Eucharist during Holy Week several who attended came to me saying, “after I said, I forgive them” to your question “do you, then, forgive those who have sinned against you”, I felt so much peace within.

Jesus had to show his wounds to remind the apostles that he is capable peace only by forgiving those who inflicted that upon him. By accepting that he is violated, he was ready to let go.

If I am Thomas and heard that the guy who got killed and was buried three days ago in a cave that cannot be easily opened is walking around in town, I will be skeptical. And I am anything like Thomas who said am willing to die with my master, it is not going to be easy to forgive those who inflicted such a painful death to my master. Jesus had all the reason to do what he did. For he knew Thomas needs to let go of the narrow definition of faith which is surrounding beliefs and practices to the true principles of faith which is surrounding the act of forgiveness. 

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