The Evening of the First Day of the Week
Peter stands at the window, gazing down at the passers-by with unseeing eyes. He is torn between hope and sorrow. He plays the scene over and over in his head, thinking of the different responses he could have made: “Yes, I do know Him.” …“I am His companion.” …“I would lay down my life…” And the tears roll down his cheeks anew.
Next to him, lost in his own thoughts is John—tossed, too, from one emotion to another. The traumatic events of Friday come unbidden to his mind. But then there is the tomb. “Where is He?” he murmurs, rousing his companion from his preoccupation.
“What was that?”
“The tomb is empty, Simon. Where is Jesus?”
Each Apostle wrestles with his own reaction to the drama played out over the past few days. One, in fear, begs Peter and John to step away from the window, lest a member of the Sanhedrin spy their whereabouts. Another is stewing in self-directed anger because he ran away; a third shakes his fist at the unfairness and cruelty of the world.
“Well, even if the women’s story is true,” another Apostle remarks, “I don’t think He would come back to us. I’m sure I disappointed him when I deserted. He would want better, more faithful disciples.”
And so, though it is a comfort for them to be together, the keenness of grief tears at every heart. Into this the Lord comes.
“Peace be with you.”
“Me?” Peter might respond. “But I denied You!”
“Peace be with you, Peter. ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail …you must strengthen your brethren’ (Lk. 22:32). I give you perseverance.”
“Peace be with you, John. ‘I will not leave you desolate’ (Jn. 14:18). I give you healing after trauma, joy after sorrow.”
And so with each of His followers: “Peace be with you…“Do not be afraid” (Jn. 6:20)…
“Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jn. 14:1) …“be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33) …“I have called you friends…You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” (Jn. 15:15,16).
I imagine this first Easter night, and I can stand in the place of each Apostle. Perhaps, honestly, I imagine it thus because I have been in most of these places during the weeks of this pandemic, experiencing a tumult of thoughts and emotions that can differ by day or even by hour. Unfailingly, though, I find peace and consolation in knowing that Jesus comes to me. As He approaches, what does He say? Exactly what I need to hear. He has the words of everlasting life (Jn. 6:68), and these He offers me, no matter what state my heart is in.
I share this meditation in the hope that each of us who takes time during this Easter season—even in the midst of crisis—to pray with this Gospel passage (Jn. 20:19-23) might allow Jesus to come close and hear Him say, “Peace be with you. I offer you the grace you need.”
“Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor
and to find help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR