“Do not be afraid” is the greeting of the Lord to St. John recounted in the opening passage from the Book of Revelation. The greeting is one that we have heard before. Jesus used this greeting frequently. The angel Gabriel also used the greeting when he appeared to Mary and Zechariah announcing the dawn of salvation.
The words were repeated often by Blessed John Paul II, whose anniversary we observed last week. The greeting invites us to approach the Lord and to experience His Divine Mercy.
There are so many things in life that might temp us to fear: the violence we read about in the newspapers or experience in our own lives; the plight of the poor, the hungry, the jobless and the sick; the lack of respect for all human life; the pressures of contemporary culture for aimless material success or power and the stresses they bring to family life. Yet it is into this situation that those words of the Lord echo “do not be afraid.”
Jesus’ victory over sin and death is the answer to any of our fears. He has been victorious. He is Risen! His victory is a victory of love over hate, compassion over indifference, of mercy over sin.
In the Gospel passage for today’s Mass Jesus uses the greeting “Peace be with you.” In the short passage the greeting is used three times. Jesus not only brings peace, He is Peace. Jesus is the peace that quells any fear or anxiety. Thomas experiences this when his doubts are erased by the Divine Mercy.
So too for us when we recognize Jesus’ presence in our lives.
The apostles were prepared to carry on the mission of Jesus after his passion, death and resurrection. The first reading today recalls this mission in Peter’s ministry. Many, many people were coming to him as they did to Jesus. The sick, the lame and those troubled by unclean spirits were brought to him for healing. In his presence they experienced peace.
The mission of peace continues to this day — it is the mission of the Church. Pope Francis’ prayer and plea for peace in his “Urbi et Orbi” Easter address reminds us that we all can work to bring Christ’s peace to troubled times. No power in this world is greater than the mercy of Christ. And in Christ we find peace.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. As we celebrate the Lord’s Mercy, we celebrate the peace that he won for us. We celebrate His love. And in that love there is no place for fear.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.