From the Center for Social Ministry’s blog, Building Bridges, Building Hope –
Peace Be With U.S.
This past weekend’s Gospel reading is similar to the previous weekend’s reading from John, and is another retelling of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his resurrection. Just like the reading from John, Jesus greets the disciples with “Peace be with you.” The disciples are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost, but Jesus invites them to look at and touch his hands and feet, so they know it really is him. Jesus then breaks open the scriptures with the disciples and reiterates that his death and resurrection are the fulfillment of scripture and “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
As I read this Gospel I am especially drawn to Jesus’ reiteration that we respond to each other with forgiveness; that calling others to repentance and forgiveness are not some trivial part of our faith, but are foundational to our understanding of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus and our call as Christians. Just as John the Baptist proclaims before Jesus begins his ministry, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near,” (Mt. 3:2) Jesus reiterates our need to repent and proclaim repentance and forgiveness to everyone; everywhere.
If proclaiming repentance and forgiveness are fundamental aspects of the Easter story and of our Christian faith, we might ask ourselves: How are we embracing Jesus’ Resurrection today? Do we, Christians, regularly forgive others and call others into forgiveness? Do we invite others, in the words of Jesus, to forgive “seventy-seven times?” (Mt. 18:22).
If our current governmental systems and structures are our guide, then we have a long way to go with regard to forgiveness. Christians regularly advocate for the death penalty, even though Jesus said, “You have heard it said an eye for an eye, but I say do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn and offer them the other…” (Mt. 5: 38) Many Christians regularly continue to support violence as the primary response to anyone or anything threatening, even though Jesus regularly called us to be peacemakers. Many U.S. Christians adamantly and vocally advocate that our U.S. Constitutional Rights be upheld, but rarely ever adamantly and vocally advocate for the Gospel values of forgiveness and peace.
Last week, President Trump called for National Guard troops to head to the U.S./Mexico border. The deployment of troops to the border is supported by many Christians in the U.S. While it is certainly true that the issue of migration is multi-layered and incredibly complex, the justification for border troops is driven by fear; fear that if we don’t secure our borders “criminals, law-breakers, and job-stealers will get into our country.” And, often when I hear this rhetoric, I want the Resurrected Jesus to appear and say, “peace be with you” to help dispel the fear that is running rampant among us in the U.S.; to dispel the myth that we are in any greater danger from migrants than we are from our own citizens. I also want Jesus to show up in body and spirit, and reiterate all he preached and taught about love of neighbor, compassion, forgiveness and the unconditional love and mercy of God. It seems we Christians in the U.S. could use a reminder about what it means to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors as ourselves. It seems we could all benefit from Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you.”
Susie Tierney is the Director of Organizing for JustFaith Ministries and the Executive Director of the Center for Social Ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.