If you ever watched “Wait Until Dark,” it’s hard to forget the scene in which thuggish, knife-wielding Alan Arkin suddenly springs toward blind, alone-in-her-kitchen-at-night Audrey Hepburn. What a moment! One reviewer called it “a terrific jolt.” For the way it reliably induces screams in the audience, my wife deems it the perfect preteen girls’ sleepover movie.
The scene comes to mind when I hear today’s Gospel. On Easter evening, the disciples were in a room, talking. All at once, “while they were still speaking,” Jesus “stood in their midst.” They were “terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” St. Luke doesn’t say they screamed, but I bet they did.
The irony is that Jesus’ first words to them were “Peace be with you.” Peace was not what they felt!
Maybe there’s an entry into the Gospel here for us. When we hear, “Peace be with you,” do we feel peace? I know, peace is more than a feeling. But it is something we can feel. And we certainly know the feeling of not being at peace.
The reasons we’re not at peace are various: a boy in our parish is in the intensive care unit waiting for a heart transplant, a woman is reaching out to an attorney because her husband is threatening to divorce her, a friend ... but do I need to compose a list?
We’re familiar with the problems that rob us of peace. Some are in our circumstances, others are inside us -- regrets over how we raised our children, guilt over ... but there I go again, making an unnecessary list.
With such obstacles, can we experience peace?
Today’s readings point toward the removal of the biggest obstacle. Jesus is “the expiation of our sins,” the second reading tells us. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,” St. Peter says in the first reading. (How far is the nearest confessional?)
But what about the things that are not going to be changed right away, or ever, or that it is too late to change? In anxiety or sorrow, in sickness or need, is peace possible?
Peace is in Jesus. And Jesus is able to be with us despite any obstacle, as he showed by being suddenly, terrifyingly, really present with his disciples that Easter evening.
After they recovered from their shock, they were “incredulous for joy.”