Whether we are fearful or frustrated, lonely or longing for time alone, busy or bored, lockdown is hard. We wish Covid 19 hadn't happened and we wish things could go back to normal. As we read this week's Gospel there are some obvious parallels. The disciples are fearful behind closed doors. Following Jesus' death, they are sad, confused, and guilt-ridden. How they must have wished things could go back to normal. Then suddenly the mood changes. The Risen Jesus comes among them and says "Peace be with you" and the disciples rejoice.
Many of us are praying for peace of mind at the moment as we face an uncertain future. Biblically however, Peace or Shalom is not simply the absence of worry or danger. It is a key image of salvation. It describes a state where individuals are completely at ease with themselves, with others and with God. It is the at-one-ment, of the atonement. Shalom is about healing, physical, mental, spiritual and emotional, and Jesus is the embodiment of it – standing there, risen from the dead.
Yet Shalom is not only about the individual, because individuals, even if they are self-isolating, do not live in isolation from each other. The actions of each person have an effect on other people and on the world around them, for better or for worse. One cannot claim to have found peace and ignore the cry of the vulnerable, the poor, or the Earth. The peace of Christ enfolds the entire world. Shalom and the Kingdom of God are coterminous. Justice and righteousness abound and people live in harmony with God, each other and the created order. If we take seriously the idea of Shalom then the 'Green' ideals of ecological and social justice will have a central place.
Having shared his peace with the disciples, Jesus sends them out as he was sent. The peace of Christ is not only something to be received but to be shared, proclaimed and worked for. The responsibility the disciples felt must have been huge: the task they were given overwhelming. Yet, they do not act alone, for Jesus breathes his Spirit upon them and gives them the authority to forgive. This may have been wonderful, it may have been awe-inspiring, but it wasn’t back to normal. There was no going back to before the crucifixion.
The task ahead of us in the days, weeks, months and years ahead will be challenging and we too may feel overwhelmed. There will be no going back to normal and normal wasn’t really working anyway -not for the planet and not for the poor. As we play our part in working out what the ‘new normal’ will look like, let us be guided by the principles of Shalom and remember that we are not alone. For the same Risen Christ who says “Peace be with you” also says “I am with you always”. The Lord is here and his Spirit is with us.