My dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19)!
There are numerous Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances following His resurrection. He appeared to Mary in the garden, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Thomas, the disciples in the room where they were hiding, and on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Each appearance became a moment of renewed hope and faith.
I chose Jesus’ words to His disciples to begin my Easter message. “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). The disciples were stunned by Jesus’ death, afraid, confused, wondering what to do and how to go forward after Good Friday. They did not dare to show themselves in public and hid behind locked doors.
All this changed when Jesus appeared. He “came and stood among them . . . and said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again. ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn 20:19-21).
I believe we need to hear those words today. Violence on our streets, rhetoric and actions in the public arena that disregard human dignity, the scandal and challenges facing our Church, the ongoing reality of war in many areas of the world, and the personal issues of suffering family members and friends often leave us confused, afraid, and wondering what to do and how to go forward.
We need a vibrant faith and restored hope that assures us that the Risen Lord speaks to us as He spoke to His disciples. He offers us peace — peace to fill our hearts, our homes, our Church, our nation, and our world. We follow Pope Francis’ advice and “ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace” (Pope Francis).
Through His death and resurrection, God has given each of us a new beginning. Easter is the foundation of our hopes for peace. Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, is our peace. “When we believe in Him we have the courage and hope that peace will have the last word. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ knows that he has no reason to give up” (Seasons of Grace, Walter Kasper).
After Jesus’ message of peace to the fearful disciples, He sent them forth to be agents of forgiveness and peace. Renewed by the Lord’s Resurrection and His abiding presence among us, let us go forth as “missionary disciples,” sharing the good news of peace and forgiveness.
A blessed and joyous Easter to all. Be assured of my prayers as we continue the journey of life and faith with renewed hope and joy in the promise of new and eternal life.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse