TEXT: Third Sunday of Easter, April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

For the second week in a row, we read today an account

of Jesus’ appearing to His apostles in the upper room on Easter Sunday.

Last week we read St. John’s account,

and this week we read St. Luke’s.

As you would expect, the two accounts tell pretty much the same story,

each adding their own details and perspective.

But one thing that stands out in both accounts is their identical account

 of the first words the Risen Christ said to His apostles:

“Peace be with you.”

Think about this.

On what other occasion does Jesus tell His apostles, “Peace be with you”?

If you recall, it happened just three days before Easter

when, at the Last Supper, He said:

         “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;

                  not as the world gives do I give to you.

         Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Sounds a lot like what he says to those same apostles in today’s Gospel,

taken from Easter:

Peace be with you…Why are you troubled?

                  And why do questions arise in your hearts?”

The “peace of Christ” is not like the peace the world thinks of

         —it’s not just about nonviolence or harmony between people

(although those can certainly flow from the peace of Christ).

The peace of Christ is first and fundamentally an internal peace

—peace of the heart.

So even when there’s all sorts of violence and disturbance around you

         –like when the apostles were locked in the upper room,

                  afraid the Sanhedrin or the Romans would come

                           and arrest them and crucify them—

         even then, you can have true and inner peace,

                  as the apostles did when going from being terrified to, as it says, being “incredulous for joy.”

Moreover, this peace comes directly from Christ,

         and we receive it only by being with Christ.

We see this in today’s Gospel as Jesus seeks to reassure His apostles

         that He is really there with them, really alive,

                  by showing them His wounded hands and eating with them.

With Him, there is no reason to fear or to have a troubled heart,

         but only reason to be at peace.

Even so, at the very end of the Last Supper, He prays to His Father,

“That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in Me and I am in You,

         may they also be in Us.”

So, we see that the fullness of the peace of Christ

         comes not from merely being with Him, but from being ONE with Him,

                   being united to Him.

He continues praying at the Last Supper,

“That they may be one, as We are one, I IN them and You IN Me.

This oneness, or unity, or communion, is exactly what we find

         in the sacrament Jesus instituted at the Last Supper

         that we come here to celebrate today:

                  the Eucharist.

                           It’s the sacrament that we call “Holy Communion

                           at that point when Christ literally enters in to us

                           as we receive His Body: “I in them”…and us in Him.

So, in a very important sense, the Eucharist,

         or rather the Communion with Christ

         that the Eucharist brings about and strengthens,

                  is the source of true peace.


The Church reminds us of this at every Mass.

All throughout the Mass, we pray for peace.

For example, right at the beginning of the Mass, we sing:

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to people of good will.”

In the Eucharistic prayer we pray for peace four times, including

the prayer that God will “order our days in [His] peace.”

Right before we receive Communion, the priest prays to Christ,

recalling His words from the Last Supper:

“Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Your Apostles,

‘Peace I leave you,My peace I give you.’”

Then, speaking of the Church, he says,

“Graciously grant Her peace and unity.”

And then, he turns to the people and says,

         “Peace be with you.”


Now, it is true that by receiving and being in Communion in Christ,

         we come into, or deepen our communion, with each other

                  as Jesus prays at the Last Supper, “That they may all be one.”

But to understand the unity He’s talking about,

         and the “they” He’s praying for,

                  we have to go back to the context.

He begins by first praying for the unity of his twelve apostles.

Continuing to pray for the twelve apostles, He asks His Father,

“Sanctify them in the truth…

As You have sent Me into the world,

so I have sent them into the world.”

And then He prays,

“I ask not only on behalf of these [the twelve apostles],

but also, on behalf of those who will believe in Me

         through their word, that they may all be one.”

You see, He’s praying for unity,

         first of the apostles,

         and then of all those who come to believe in the truth they teach.

So, unity with Christ and the fullness of true peace it brings,

also requires unity, or communion, with the apostles

and believing what they taught about Christ.

This is not just with His first twelve, but also with their successors in authority who have passed along the authentic true apostolic teaching

over the last twenty centuries.

So, ask yourself, when you come up to receive Holy Communion,

         do you first examine your conscience

         to see if you really are in communion with the apostolic teaching

                  handed down through the centuries through

popes, bishops, councils, and great fathers and doctors of the Church?

If you’re not, do you realize there can be no true peace for you

         in the lie you commit by receiving Holy Communion

                  when you are not in communion?


Unfortunately, today there are many challenges to our communion

         with Christ and His apostles.

I don’t just mean those brought by our separated Protestant brethren,

but also the challenges that arise from within the visible boundaries

of the Catholic Church Herself.

Whether they’re challenges to our communion by those who call themselves Catholic

but reject the Church’s ancient, apostolic, and constant teaching on things like

the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,

its effects on us, and the Communion it brings with Christ;

or the real historical bodily Death and Resurrection of Jesus;

or the truth about marriage and sexuality;

or the dignity of every person, poor or rich, born or unborn.

Or whether they’re challenges brought by Catholics who simply spread confusion regarding the constant teaching of the Church.

For example, when well-meaning priests, and even bishops,

         will take an official doctrine of the Church

         and apply it to certain situations and act as if their private opinion

                  is the same and as binding as actual doctrine.

But attempts to impose unity

where legitimate differences in judgment should be respected

does nothing but confuse the faithful and undermine true communion

—and so, peace.


In the end, true peace comes only from unity with Christ.

There can be no unity with Christ, however,  

         without unity with the true teaching of the apostles and their successors.

As we enter more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist at this Mass,

         and as we pray for the peace and unity that only

         the sacrament of Communion with Christ and His Church can bring,

         let us pray for those who threaten that unity

                  through ignorance, willful dissent,

                           or confusing doctrine and prudential judgment.

As we approach the Lord in Holy Communion,

let us examine ourselves,

         praying for forgiveness for any way we may have offended

                  the peace and unity of the Church,

so that we may approach our Eucharistic Lord

         not with troubled hearts filled with fear,

                  but with peaceful hearts filled with Easter Joy.

Then, the Lord may say to us, “Peace be with you.”