He Shall Return
Homily for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Preached on May 4, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13ab, 21; John 14:27-31a
“I shall return.”
To a generation of Filipinos those three words spoken by General Douglas MacArthur in 1942 meant everything. They meant life in a time of war. They meant hope in the hour of despair. They meant that there was a future that they could look forward to, that there was a singular light in the midst of the darkness, a promise that would carry them through the three godless years of the Japanese Occupation. Those three words reassured them that salvation from the enemy would come at a time they did not know, but at a time that would surely come.
“Peace” (Jn. 14:27).
Little did the disciples realize that this one word spoken by Jesus on the eve of His passion meant everything to a sin-sick world. It meant hope in the desperate days ahead. It meant that the light continues to “shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5). The peace that He left to His disciples and His words, “I am going away and I will come back to you” (Jn. 14:28), was the promise that would carry them through Good Friday and Black Saturday. It is what reassured them that salvation from the Enemy would surely come but in a manner that they could not have conceived.
On October 20, 1944, on the shore of Leyte Gulf, General MacArthur made true his promise to the Filipino people. On that day, he declared, “I have returned.” The enemy would soon be overcome, but already the nation knew that it had not hoped in vain in those three godless years.
In the evening of Easter, the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples. The first word He spoke was one of the last that they had heard Him speak in that same upper room: “Peace” (Jn. 20:19). Now, the Enemy had been overcome. Life and hope and Christ had emerged triumphant after three days in the tomb. Humanity had not hoped in vain.
Today, we live in a world full of fear and anxiety. We still need to hear again and again the words that Jesus spoke in that upper room: “do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn. 14:27). And we know that we can rely on His word for He has made true His promise once before and He has left us with His peace, the same peace He will greet us with when finally He returns in glory to bring us, the exiled children of Eve, home to the Father.