Now while they were talking of these things, Jesus stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid.”
When it was late that same day, the first of the week, though the doors where the disciples gathered had been closed for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, “Peace be to you!”
Without a doubt, most kids really like amusement parks. Now you may find this hard to believe, but when I was very young, my poor eyesight rendered Dorney Park here in Allentown more a place of horror than amusement.
For example, I was afraid to take one of those little outboard motorboats out on the lake. You see, I thought I was the one responsible for steering the boat, until my brother John pointed out to me in his uniquely tactful way: “You big dope! The boats are on tracks. They steer themselves.” Well, excuse me! I didn’t know.
I was likewise terrified of carrousels. I did not realize that the whole platform moves, not just the horses. I thought that, if I were to fall off a horse, I’d be run over by all the other horses that followed. How was I to know the platform moves?
But, and this won’t surprise you, the ride that terrified me the most was the rollercoaster. A lot of folks are frightened of rollercoasters. Dorney Park’s little rollercoaster was bad enough, but the big, wooden rollercoaster sent chills up my spine. That’s because, when I took my first ride, I tensed up. I made myself stiff in all my joints. I braced myself against the seat and hung on to the crash bar for dear life. I didn’t trust the builders of the rollercoaster, and I was certain the whole death machine was going to collapse. Needless to say, I had a terrible ride. By the time it was all over and I loosened my white-knuckled death grip on the crash bar, I was sick to my stomach, dizzy in my head, and unsteady on my feet. Why would people actually pay money to torture themselves like that?
Unbelievable as it may sound, I have since learned the secret of how to ride a rollercoaster. The key is to imagine that your body is like rubber and all your joints are like Jell-O. This springiness of joints and elasticity of body allows you to take all the ups and downs of the rollercoaster with a light heart. And a light heart allows you to have fun. Ultimately it all boils down to one question: Do I trust the designers and builders of the rollercoaster? If so, I can relax and enjoy the ride.
Note that the very first words the risen Lord says to His disciples are: “Peace be with you.” Yet what is this peace? The peace of which Jesus speaks is like the trust of an experienced rollercoaster rider. It springs from the confidence that the God who designed life, despite its ups and downs, knows what He is doing and has our best interests at heart. It is a certain lightness of spirit that enables us to face all of life’s challenges in stride. As the world sees it, peace is the absence of conflict and tension. For the Christian, however, peace is a serene trust in God that allows a soul to remain tranquil amid all of life’s ups and downs. It is, when you get right down to it, the surrendering of our will into the hands of a loving God who has our wellbeing at heart.
I recently purchased a copy of the play Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot. When Monsignor Baker saw the title, he thought it was a how-to manual! It’s really about the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket in 1170. Imagine my surprise when I found this wonderful description of Christ’s peace in the mouth of Eliot’s soon-to-be-martyred Becket:
Reflect now how Our Lord Himself spoke of peace. He said to His disciples: “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you.” Did He mean peace as we think of it—the Kingdom of England at peace with its neighbors, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men, his disciples, knew no such things. They went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom…. For the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, and who no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom.
For the Christian, not just the Christian martyr, peace means surrendering one’s will into the hands of God. It means being able to say to God what Jesus said on the cross, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” It means being able to pray to Jesus, “It’s not about me, but about Thee.”
Today, more than fifty years after my first visit to Dorney Park, I am no longer afraid of motorboats. I have a genuine liking for merry-go-rounds. But I have a real love for rollercoasters. To my way of thinking, the steel ones are way too smooth. I like the wooden ones, and the more they rattle and shake, the better. You see, the secret of riding a rollercoaster is like the Christian’s attitude toward life. Both involve a profound trust and a complete surrender. Designers of rollercoasters know how to give thrills, but Jesus knows best how to lead us to heaven. So with the confidence of a rollercoaster aficionado, let us say with Sister Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in You!” In all of life’s ups and downs, we surrender our wills to His.