7 April 2013
Revelation 1: 9-13, 17-19
John 20.19- 31
A certain man in his late thirties had had many girlfriends but he never met anyone he felt he could marry. He wanted to be very sure before committing his life to someone he believed was the right person for him. But there were always doubts in his mind when he met a woman he felt might be the one. His family and friends told him that he could never have the certitude he wanted before marrying. In fact, the man never married as he always felt the risk was too great.
The end of the gospel passage today states: ‘There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life through his name’.
Faith or belief is not just about believing in things we do not see. Faith is about taking a risk and making commitments, even if what lies ahead is unclear, even if we are not sure. The man in the story above could not take this risk. This is what Jesus was challenging Thomas about. He was inviting Thomas to believe him even though he did not see him. Moreover, he is inviting Thomas to commit his life to him and this will involve risk.
The gospel is telling us that the name Thomas means Twin. It seems that John the Evangelist is very subtly telling us that Thomas is really our Twin. In our following of Jesus as his disciples we often find ourselves doubting, questioning, hesitating, even challenging. John is expressing an insight about our very basic human nature. Most of us, at least a lot of the time, have to see and to touch in order to believe. Not that this is actually sinful in itself – it is just who we are as human beings.
But our faith calls us to go deeper. Before the death of Jesus most of his followers stopped following him. Whilst he was performing miracles and signs they had what they needed as proof but as he nears his Passion and death on the cross nearly everyone abandons him. Their conditions for following Jesus, the signs were no longer evident. So they simply stopped following him.
In the gospel of John the word faith or belief occurs about 98 times and it is never a static noun but always an active verb. It means a close following of Jesus, a commitment of our lives to him even when the signs are not too clear. Basically it is about trust – will we trust Jesus, will we be faithful in following him when our conditions are not met but allow him to act as he knows best, not always understanding why he acts this way?
This was basically the problem of Thomas. We read that he set up his own conditions for believing in Jesus. “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands, and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”. Then when the compassionate, understanding Risen Jesus Christ appears again, we see his sensitivity to the doubts of Thomas. There is no actual condemnation on the part of Jesus, simply kindness and gentleness.
This is our God – he knows that in life difficulties will come our way, sometimes causing us to doubt God’s love and care for us. But today’s gospel is a litany of God’s incredible understanding and sensitivity to where we are at. First, he appears to the disciples locked in a room for fear of the Jews. His first words are not those of condemnation but of consolation – he offers them Peace and this fills them with joy. In fact, three times in this gospel passage he says ‘Peace be with you’. Not only are they locked in a room but also they are locked into their fears. They are in a sense paralyzed by fear. Jesus becomes a life-giver to them. Joy replaces fear.
In what way do we allow our fears to dominate our lives? I suppose each of us is in a different space but I know many people who are locked into situations they feel imprisoned in – it may be a non life-giving relationship, a drink problem, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of dying etc. etc. Jesus came to free each of us. He may not always come directly but if we ask him in faith and trust, he will help us by using others to have the freedom and peace these frightened disciples of his had after he appeared to them.
Jesus appeared to the disciples and firstly showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. He is telling us that it is alright to go to God in our woundedness, ours sins and shortcomings – that we are assured of a total welcome. We don’t have to pretend that we are otherwise; we can go as we are. Jesus appreciates honesty.
He also breathes on them and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit for their life’s work, not only to them but to us as well. We each have a call from God to be bringers of joy and peace as well as being channels of God’s forgiveness to others. Knowing how difficult it is to do this always, we each are given the Holy Spirit also. But do we pray as often as we might for the gift of this Spirit – to allow the Spirit to energise and empower us daily?
Jesus was truly a life-giver to his disciples in this gospel passage. So where do we go for life? Who or what is life-giving for me? I know that the reason I believe in the Risen Jesus is that I have experienced a great amount of freedom in my life through my faith in the Risen Jesus – a gift I ask for daily.
“Lord Jesus, give us a monumental increase of faith, trust and love in you. Help us to be a bringer of joy, peace and forgiveness to others with the powerful help of the Holy Spirit. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA