In today’s first reading, we are met with a different group of apostles than the ones we met after Jesus was crucified. After his death, the apostles hid in an upper room and were racked with terror. Jesus had been murdered in an excruciating spectacle. They feared that not only had their beloved friend and teacher died, but also the vision of the Kingdom of God that Jesus had proclaimed. The apostles had sacrificed everything for this new vision. Even though they were told that Jesus would rise again, state-sanctioned violence worked as it was designed. Jesus’ murder was a public killing meant to root terror into the hearts of those who followed him or dared to challenge the state in any way. Huddled together in terror is how the apostles are met by the resurrected Christ, whose first message is “peace.”
We have now arrived at the Ascension, where Jesus once again leaves the apostles to return to God. Can you see the parallel and difference? The apostles, who include women, are all there to say goodbye to Jesus. Together, they returned to that upper room and prayed. There is no sadness, no fear. There is now only peace. With Jesus’ resurrection and time spent with the apostles in this new way, the vision of the kingdom is restored and expanded. Death did not have the last word, and peace uprooted terror.
Still, there is suffering to be had in the name of Christ. In the second reading, St. Peter is writing to the early Christian communities in Asia Minor who are under threat of persecution. He instructs them to rejoice in their sufferings they share with Christ and not to be ashamed to act in ways that model Jesus’ life. But there is also temptation. There is temptation to act as the oppressor acts: to murder, to thieve, and to do evil. When we are made to suffer under oppression and threat, there is the temptation to respond in like violence. Yet the message, once again, is peace.
The message for us today has been echoed for centuries. The work of justice, the work of building the kingdom of God, is difficult, and we will suffer. We will suffer because oppression chooses violence, yet we come with a message of peace. We respond to violence with the peace that Christ gives us. And we do it together. We come down from that mountaintop together. We gather together. We pray together.
- What does the resurrected Christ’s message of peace mean to you in the present and in moments of suffering?
- How does gathering together aid the work to overcome oppression?
Teresa Marie Cariño Petersen is an educator and activist particularly interested in racial justice and embodiment. She currently works as a campus ministry teacher at Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton where she teaches social ethics and coordinates the immersion program. She credits her faith that does justice formation to ISN and is an alum of St. Ignatius (San Francisco), the University of San Francisco, and (soon to be) Jesuit School of Theology. She also served as a Jesuit Volunteer in New York City 13’-14’ and worked at two Jesuit parishes. Teresa also serves on the board of the National Catholic Reporter.
Find her on Instagram @teresamariecarino