Second Sunday of Easter, 28/04/2019
(Sunday Dedicated to Divine Mercy)
In our liturgical meetings and celebrations we often use greetings/invitations like: Christ thy kingdom come, praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, Praise the Lord, Amen!, or Amen! Amen! Or God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. These and other similar greetings are in use in our Catholic liturgical meetings/gatherings/celebrations and even in the protestant gatherings as well.
Some priests or televangelists in their preaching frequently use these greetings/invitations to manage the attention of the audience/congregation during their homilies. At the beginning of the mass the priest begins with the greetings of doxa (praise) like; “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Bishops greet and invite the gathering community of faith with the following words; “Peace be with you.” In the communion rite the priest or deacon turns to the gathered community of faith/believers with these greetings/invitations; “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” At the end of the mass the celebrant or the deacon dismisses the believers/gathered community of faith with these words; “Go in peace”.
What is the meaning of these greetings/invitations to us? What is your statement of purpose why you have been using these greetings during liturgical meetings/gatherings and celebrations? At first I thought they are meant to capture the attention of the gathering community on the liturgical action at the beginning or they are a way of maintaining the attention and control of the audience/congregation/ community during the church ritual actions.
The risen Christ greets his disciples three times telling them; “Peace be with you”. Repeating the same greetings three times can be boring if not irritating to some people. Repetition can also make them lose their deeper meaning. All the same, the risen Christ repeated them to his disciples three times. He is insisting on sending them out to spread a message of Peace, forgiveness and love.
What do these greetings/invitations mean to us Christians when we are a gathered community of faith? They are the words/invitations/greetings of a believer to express the same Easter Spirit that Jesus breathed to his Disciples. In the first reading the early church is filled with the same Easter Spirit. They distinguish the liturgical meetings/gatherings from other kinds of meetings and gatherings. These invitations help us to shape a narrative of the risen Christ who is experienced in the gathering community of faith. The same greetings and just more than greetings are also Christ’s invitation to us to accept and share his new gift of resurrection; “peace be with you” he says to them, and more than just greetings are also a gift. A gift reveals the giver, and it’s in sharing in this gift of the risen Christ like Thomas did later, that we come to experience the joy of the risen Christ present in our communities. Together with the Psalmist we continue the song of gratitude, joy and celebration which we prayed on Easter Sunday. Our convictions regarding the risen Christ, his message of forgiving sins, and his ministry continue to be shared through these greetings. In today’s gospel Jesus not only greets his community of faith/believers but also illustrates his gift to them as the gathered and sent community of merciful love (hesed), forgiveness, one in mind and heart. Therefore, with the same gift of the risen Christ a priest meets the gathered and sent community of believers/faith, at the beginning of every liturgical meeting/gathering/celebration to re-enforce their convictions regarding Christ, his message, his ministry of forgiveness, love and mercy. When Christians use these greetings in their liturgical meetings/ gatherings they too re-affirm their belief in the risen Christ and they worship together Christ as their Lord and God.
Therefore, the Spirit that Christ breathes to the community of faith is the Spirit of oneness, mercy and prayer which are the fruits of his gift of peace to the believers. Let us pray that as one community bonded by the merciful love of the risen Christ, our hearts may open to recognizing the risen Christ present amongst us. May his words/greetings of peace drive out all fear and doubt in our lives and help us transform the world through the love of Christ.
Happy Easter, Alleluia Allelluia.