I heard this story from a dear friend and I thought I
would share it with you.
Once upon a time, certainly in my life time, this little hard working lady from NE Washington would get on several buses to get to work and help support her family.
She worked in the cafeteria in or near the Pentagon. She would get on the bus in Washington and would sit down in any seat for the long journey to work, many times she made the journey under the hot Washington sun (no air-conditioning then).
When the last bus she had to take got to the 14th Street bridge it would stop right on the bridge at the border between Washington and Virginia and the driver would stand and shout “Negros to the back of the bus.”
The bus would not move until all the Negros moved even if there were lots of empty seats or even if there weren’t any white people on the bus at all.
When the bus finally moved on you would have the surreal scene of a bus empty in the front and a whole lot of people squeezed in the back like sardines . Thank God such foolishness seems so foreign to me today.
It is easy to imagine how frustrating and humiliating and ridiculous it was to have to go through this ritual every day over and over again when you were just trying to help your family and you were tired after a long day’s work.
But this little hard working lady who loved her family and travelled so far to help provide for them refused to be conquered by such foolishness.
She simply told herself and her loved ones that she was not going to let anyone take her peace and that no one had the power to take away her joy.
Her quiet steadfast refusal to allow herself to changed by stupidity of others was an incredible sign of strength.
It was a simple, quiet, but strong “NO” to ignorance. The anger and bitterness and ignorance of other people would not conquer her.
They might get her seat but the wouldn’t get her heart and they wouldn't get her peace.
The strength she showed could only have by a profound life of prayer and the consolation of living one’s life based on the Word of God.
Her faith taught had her that Jesus wants us to live in peace and that the life of a Christian should be filled with joy.
Change finally came because of the strong witness of people like her who refused to allow themselves to be conquered or defeated by anger, despair or prejudice.
God wants us all to have peace... and he doesn't want us to let anyone or anything take it from us..
In today’s Gospel over and over again Jesus said “Peace be with you…” And in fact all of the readings today point to the same call to peace.
In the first reading people find strength and healing, faith and joy in the good works of the Apostles, in the good works of the Church.
In the second reading from Revelation John finds himself on the Island of Pathos consoled with the revelation that Jesus is particularly close to those who suffer. Those who suffer persecution those who suffer anything.
In the Gospel Jesus appears and tries repeatedly to convince a terrified groups of dear friends that he is not a ghost. He even eats a piece of baked fish, ghosts can’t do that.. and let’s Thomas touch his wounds.
Yes, Jesus wants us all to live peace filled lives in peaceful families surrounded by peaceful communities, and someday his dream for us will be realized.
But understanding the human heart as much as he does in today’s Gospel Jesus also gave the Apostles and the Church an astounding gift.
He knew that because we mess up over and over and over again we humans need the ability to simply start over, to begin anew, to leave our past and our sins and failures behind .
And so he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
With this simple phrase The Church has believed for 2000 years that Jesus gave the apostle and those who would follow in the footsteps of the Apostles the gift to forgive sins.
Today’s readings and the faith of that little lady riding the bus to feed her family should cause us all to ask ourselves “Who or What is taking our peace Better yet…who or what do we allow to take our peace ?
Why don’t we live peace filled lives ?
Is it because we’ve given into the epidemic temptation to always want more and more and more thing?
Is it because we’ve given into the temptation to always want to be the first in line the most recognized?
You know the “I’m number one syndrome”
Is it because we really don’t believe that God loves us?
Have we lost our peace because we just can’t seem to shake away the burden of our sins?
When’s the last time we went to confession? The church asks us to go once a year, I go every week and I always have enough to say.
With all the crap going on in the world I’m amazed that after regularly going to confession themselves priests, aren’t living in the confessionals of their Church reminding everyone that God loves them, forgives them and wants us to be at peace.
Who or what are we allowing to take our peace ?
Who or what are we allowing to take our joy ?
Very important questions indeed.
“Peace be with you,” he said…..