It was an unusually warm sunny January day. The scene was picturesque as the caravan of cars snaked behind the hearse into the cemetery grounds. Family and friends emerged to gather around the grave — opened and prepared to receive my father’s body. After a 21 gun salute, taps and a final blessing, the undertaker lowered Dad’s body into the earth. Each child and grandchild walked past, bidding a final farewell, and then scoops of dirt descended upon the casket. As we left the cemetery, my heart filled with gratitude for a beautiful funeral. Yet in the night’s darkness, the stark reality of Dad’s death — his lifeless body forever encased in the earth — seized me. My heart racing, I thought, “If it could bring him back to life — for a day, an hour, or even a moment — I would claw my way to his casket, stopping at nothing to clutch him from the tomb.” But then I heard, “Peace be with you.”
On this second Sunday of Easter, the disciples, who had just witnessed Jesus’ death, are locked away in fear. Jesus appears and speaks twice, “Peace be with you.” And, later, when Thomas joins the others, we hear for the third time: “Peace be with you.” God knows when fear grips our throats, our hearts need the reassurance of his living presence: “Peace be with you.” Jesus breathes his Spirit upon the disciples to usher in a peace beyond all understanding — a peace beyond failure, sin, even death.
When I was a little girl, I would occasionally experience a nightmare — sometimes about death. My mother would comfort me by assuring that if Jesus lived in my heart, then I would also live in him — forever. And I would drift to sleep. As parents/grandparents, we relieve our children of fear, especially the fear of death, when we speak of the risen Jesus in our homes and hearts. We name grace — God’s peaceful presence — as we guide them to listen carefully to Jesus’ voice within speaking, “Peace be with you.”
Death was not a thief in the night for Dad. Rather, Dad prepared well for his death through a lifetime of faith, love, generosity and kindness — grace. Dad seemed fully at peace as the time drew near. As Daniel Burke posted in Spiritual Direction.com: “Although death is the last, it is not the only coming of the Lord in the life of a Christian; it is preceded by many other comings whose special purpose is to prepare us for this last. Death will then be for us in the fullest sense a coming of grace.”
From the book of Revelation, we read of John’s vision of the risen Christ: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.” Jesus Christ holds the keys to the netherworld. He lives forever. He dispenses mercy. And I receive peace. Dad, baptized into Christ, died in him and will rise again on the last day.
Easter is here!!! Alleluia! Jesus is risen! He is alive! I recently visited the gravesite of Mom and Dad; there was a cool breeze, green grass and even a few birds chirping. And there was peace. And my heart spoke in gratitude: My Lord and my God! Your mercy endures forever. Your love is everlasting. Amen. Alleluia! Now, that’s good news!
When have you heard Jesus speak, “Peace be with you?”
How will you make Jesus alive for your children?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.