"Peace Be With You"

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear, and sometimes it shakes you by the shoulders. When Father Tom Marti, MM, director of our Maryknoll Mission House, shared with me his copy of America: the National Catholic Weekly today, the day after Easter Sunday, I immediately zeroed in on the editorial, "Easter Peace." It offers this reflection and challenge: "The disciples' grief over Jesus' death, their dismay over Jesus' rejection by Israel's leaders, their shame over abandoning Jesus at the cross, their bewilderment over the empty tomb and Mary Magdalene's wild report - all those feelings came to an abrupt halt with the familiar salutation: Peace be with you." This, of course, is how Jesus greeted them when He appeared. And this is His Easter challenge to all of us, to live and breathe the Peace of Christ.

This message, for me, captures perfectly the issues that I have been struggling with following the Holy Triduum. On Good Friday, my apartment complex in Renton, WA, was swarming with police officers and members of the SWAT team. A neighbor had fired a weapon in a domestic dispute, and the police officers spent hours trying to get the man out. While this event was certainly out of the ordinary in my neighborhood, it points to a world still and always in need of Christ’s peace. It strikes me that so much of the pain and suffering even in our own neighborhoods goes either unseen or ignored. I also recognize that, while the scene of tank-like vehicles and officers carrying assault rifles on my own streets may have been atypical for me, it is not for many people. And the fact that I could stand in the presence these armed men and women, and, at the very least, feel that they posed no threat to me - that they were there to protect me - is a luxury that many in this world do not share.

Christ's message and challenge of peace calls us not only to create community with those we encounter every day, but also to work on behalf of those that we don't encounter - or encounter but choose not to engage. Last week, I was struck, as I often am, by the image of men standing on the corner next to Home Depot, looking for day labor. How far removed their lives seem from my own, and yet, they are my brothers. Like me, they worry about caring for their loved ones and living healthy, happy lives. But the struggles that they face in achieving this basic hope far outstrip my own.

Over the weekend, I watched the documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” about educational inequality in this country, highlighting many of the challenges that I have witnessed and experienced in educating children in low-income areas. And listening to the radio at my desk this morning, I heard a report that Seattle, the city in which I work, is one of the least racially diverse cities in the nation, with 66% of residents describing themselves as “Non-Hispanic Whites” on the US Census. Still, when I drive up and down Rainier Avenue through places like Renton and Hillman City, I see a level of diversity – and poverty – that many in this area do not often encounter. And, as Jack Jezreel, Executive Director of JustFaith Ministries, points out that it is extremely difficult to empathize with people that you do not see.

Thus, the need for peace – the need for Christ – persists, and in this Easter season we are renewed in our awareness of this call. Like the disciples gathered together after the death of Christ and His disappearance from the tomb, we may be dismayed and confused. But despite some troubling realities, we now celebrate the risen Christ, and the triumph of life over death. We are called to go out, join with our brothers and sisters, and build the Kingdom. This, too, was epitomized by an experience that I had this morning: a soon-to-be retired gentleman called the Maryknoll Mission House, requesting information on how to become a missioner. This act, and the many acts of those that commit their lives to giving as opposed to taking, stands as an infinitely powerful symbol of hope.