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The peace and joy of the risen Christ renews us and our world today

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Before Jesus endured his passion, crucifixion, and death on the cross, he offered his disciples his peace. He conferred his peace on them too on Easter Sunday when he rose from the dead and appeared in their midst. But his peace was a special form of peace that he alone could offer his disciples. It was different from other forms of peace they experienced in their lives. He said to them in Jn. 14:27-28, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid.” So, his gift of peace was not the peace the world or any authority could offer. His peace he embodied and personified as the Prince of Peace and the Risen Lord was what he offered and blessed his disciples and that is the peace we pray for and wish each other in every Mass and liturgical ceremony we celebrate. His disciples were once again at ease when he appeared to them on Easter Sunday and blessed them with his peace. They were filled with joy in Jn. 20:20 when he offered them his peace and showed them his hands and side. The risen Christ was, therefore, their source of peace and joy when they were confused, afraid, and uncertain about their situation and future in life. His resurrection we celebrate at Easter should equally be a cause of joy and peace for us in our different situations in life. We should also experience the peace and joy of the risen Christ and it should change and transform our lives and world today. This is what I will reflect on in my Easter message on: The Peace and Joy of the Risen Christ Renews us and our World Today.

The peace and joy the risen Christ conferred on his disciples and our world is clearly noted in the Gospels and Easter liturgy of the Church. The Evangelists consistently observed that the disciples experienced peace and joy when the risen Christ appeared in their midst on the first day of Easter and after his resurrection. The women were afraid and filled with joy in Mt. 28:8-9 when they discovered that Jesus rose from the dead. But he blessed them with his peace on their way from the tomb. On the road to Emmaus when the risen Christ accompanied his disciples and revealed himself to them at the breaking of bread, they confessed in Lk. 24:32 that their hearts were filled with joy when he explained the scriptures to them. They were also filled with joy and wonder when he appeared to them again with the other disciples in Lk. 24:41 and he showed them his hands and feet. When he appeared again a week after Easter, we are told in Jn. 20:26 that he blessed them with his peace as he did on Easter Sunday. He offered them his peace when he met them behind closed doors for fear of the Jews before he addressed Thomas’ doubts about his resurrection. These passages clearly indicate that the risen Christ continuously offered his disciples his peace and joy during his post-resurrection appearances. The effect of his peace and joy on his disciples and the world is also expressed in the Easter liturgy, especially, in the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation and the Easter Preface of the Mass. The Church affirms in the Exsultet that “the night Christ rose from the dead is our light and joy. It restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride … That the risen Christ who came back from the dead sheds his peaceful light on all mankind.”

Jesus was fully conscious of his disciples’ fears, doubts, and sorrows before his death and resurrection. He knew they were confused, discouraged, worried, and afraid when he informed them about his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. So, he offered them what they truly needed to overcome their fears, doubts, and pain. He blessed them with his peace and he filled them with joy after his resurrection. His disciples were no longer the same, as a result, when they encountered him and experienced his peace and joy in their lives. They fully believed in him as their risen Lord and they were transformed, renewed, and strengthened to overcome their fears and despair in life. In our various situations in life, we also have our doubts and despairs like the disciples of Jesus. We are sometimes worried, troubled, and disappointed about our hope in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The risen Christ equally understands our disposition and he also offers us his peace and joy to renew and transform our lives and our world today. So, we should not only celebrate Easter Sunday as the feast of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We should also celebrate this day and the Season of Easter as a moment in our lives we encounter the risen Christ and experience his peace and joy. For, the risen Christ was the source of his disciples’ peace and joy after his resurrection from the dead. We should equally be filled with his peace and joy as we celebrate his resurrection and encounter him in our lives and world today. The Easter Season should, in that sense, be a Season of peace and joy for us when we rejoice and be glad in the risen Christ.

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The disciples were renewed in their faith and purpose in life when they encountered the risen Christ and experienced his peace and joy. They were no longer sad, intimidated, and frustrated again when the risen Christ blessed them with his peace and their hearts were filled with joy. We should also as disciples of the risen Christ be fully renewed and transformed by his presence  and his gift of peace and joy he has offered us. We should be inspired and sustained by the peace and joy of the risen Christ and embody these spiritual gifts in our lives. So, we should peaceful and joyful throughout this Easter Season and beyond based on our encounter and experience of the risen Christ in our midst. For, the risen Christ has conquered sin and death and offered us his peace and joy so we have a cause and reason to live our lives with renewed hope and purpose. The psalmist was fully convinced in Ps. 118:16-17 that the Lord’s right hand has triumphed, his right hand raised him up. So, he will not die, he will live and recount the deeds of the Lord.” He acknowledged the power of God’s right hand in his life and he was certain that he will not die or be destroyed. For that reason, he said he will live and recount the deeds of the Lord. We should also live our lives with a new purpose and meaning based on what God has done for us in the risen Christ. He is alive in our midst and he has offered us his peace and joy. Our lives should also be renewed and transformed and we should, in turn, recount the Lord’s deeds and blessings for us as we celebrate his resurrection.

The peace and joy of the risen Christ also renews and changes our world today. The Church clearly acknowledges the cosmic and universal impact of Christ’s resurrection in the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation. It says: “Rejoice, O heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels, Exult all creation around God’s throne, Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, radiant in the brightness of your King! Let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.” So, the Church fully affirms the impact of the risen Christ’s peace and joy on the heavens and the earth before it calls on Mother Church to rejoice in its Easter proclamation. We should not, consequently, lose sight of the risen Christ’s influence and effect in our society and world at large as we celebrate his resurrection and victory over the powers of darkness, sin, and death. His resurrection and appearance has restored our lives and his victory over the forces and powers of evil has reconciled humanity with God and redeemed our world from eternal damnation. Every living creature on earth, consequently, has a cause and reason to rejoice and be glad. For, Christ has conquered our fears of evil and death and offered us his peace and joy that the world cannot offer us. So, we should not only be grateful to God for raising Jesus from the dead, we should also celebrate his resurrection at Easter with a better understanding of its meaning and impact on us. If we are filled with the peace and joy of the risen Christ and if we are renewed by his gifts and blessings, we should equally be inspired and motivated to be agents of his peace and joy in our world today.

As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead and his appearance in our midst, we should be renewed and inspired by his peace and joy in our relationship with one another. His presence in our midst and his blessings should not, for that reason, be meaningless and worthless. It should have a positive effect and we should also become agents of his peace and joy in our society and world today. So, we should carefully reflect on the Scripture passages of the post-resurrection appearances of the risen Christ and the Church’s liturgical texts during this Easter Season to understand and appreciate the spirit of peace and joy that is emphasized in these sources of our faith and hope in the risen Christ. The old version of the Easter Preface of the Mass always concluded in these words: “The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world while the choirs of heaven sing forever to your glory,” to indicate how the peace and joy of the risen Christ affects and transforms our world. The new version of the Easter Preface now says, “overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly powers, with the angelic hosts sing together the unending hymn of glory.” As the Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, I fervently pray that our lives and world today will be renewed and filled with the peace and joy of the risen Christ. I wish the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, lay faithful of the Diocese, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our Muslim friends and believers of other faiths, and all Gambians at home and abroad a blessed, a peaceful, joyful, and meaningful celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. May we always experience his power, peace, and joy in our lives and our world today. Amen!

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Your Servant in Christ,

Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mendy C.S.Sp.

Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.

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