Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
Meditation on John 20, 19-23
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you,' and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. 'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained.
Your Beatitudes, Your Eminencies, holy brothers, dear Christians,
The verses of the Gospel we just heard contain several important messages that are worth reflecting on. The whole passage refers to the event that saves the world, which is the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It refers to the victory of life over death, to our salvation in Christ. The fear the disciples of Jesus Christ felt for the Jews is conquered by the joyous message of the peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Christ who is God and Man becomes the incarnation of true peace in the world. The parousia of God’s peace among the disciples gives them special joy and new hope: “The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord”.
The sign of God’s peace that spreads through the disciples to the world, is the divine commandment of their mission to “baptize and teach all the nations”.
Christianity, without a mission, would therefore be meaningless, and the heart of the mission of the Church, according to the testimony of the Gospel, is the Holy Spirit: “receive the Holy Spirit”.
A further step to make “peace rule in the whole world, for the salvation of the holy Churches of God and for the union of all”, is humility, living together, harmony, conversion and all the good that comes from the mystery of the holy confession. This leads us, through our worthy participation, to the great mystery of communion which is “to become on body and one blood with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ”.
Transfigured by Gods saving power, we become chosen vessels and heavenly angels on earth, to serve our neighbours with fear of God, living every day according to the divine commandments and doing the will of God.
The attainment of peace for the whole world begins with the living presence of God’s peace within our hearts. Peace is attained by our daily and uninterrupted prayer.
The great contribution of monasticism to the history of Christianity is in the priorities it sets to spiritual life, to uninterrupted prayer, like spiritual oxygen that gives breath to our communion with our Creator.
I believe this is also the great spiritual contribution of these 40 years of presence of the Community of Sant’Egidio within a materialistic and consumerist society. The priority of spiritual life, the priority of prayer, coexistence, philanthropy, the priority of comforting the sufferance of man, of building peace among us, the priority of protecting human dignity and God’s creation, the priority of saving the soul of humanity. This is the responsibility of Christians today; to save our world, like the Apostle to the Nations, the wise Paul, underlines in the second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 11: “Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you“. And the footsteps of the Apostle can be seen here, in the blessed Apostolic Church of Cyprus.