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Tuesday, January 26 2021

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the January issue of The Chronicle. This month is often a slower time in the life of congregations, but it has been anything but slow at St. John's. We're moving pews and other fixtures out of the sanctuary right now, so we can have a contractor come in and remove all the asbestos from the walls (and there's a lot of it). There's also Lent coming up in the middle of February, and preparations for Holy Week and Easter. All this takes quite a bit of planning in usual times, and it's doubly so during a pandemic, when every plan needs a "Plan B," and we're often reinventing how we do things to accommodate the realities of life these days.

One of the particular challenges of planning for Holy Week and Easter is that we're not only planning for remote services for those holy days, but we're also beginning to think about what it might look like to begin resuming in-person worship by that time. It's too early to say conclusively that we will reopen by then, but I'm hopeful that vaccinations will continue to help bring the number of new cases down, and we will be able to resume worship in person (though it will still be socially distanced, and it probably won't feel "normal" yet). We will decide in early March, based on the data available at that time. In the meantime, we will continue to stream services from our building (though starting February 7 it'll be from the Chapel instead of the main Church), and our programming will continue by Zoom for the rest of the program year.

My sincerest thanks to each of you for your patience and understanding as we have navigated this pandemic together. It brightens my day every time one of our members announces they've been vaccinated; it puts us that much closer to being able to be together again, the church gathered at our building, not each in our individual homes. In the meantime, I pray you all stay safe, and continue to be patient. Soon and very soon! 

Blessings,

R.C.

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Tuesday, January 26 2021

The feast of the Epiphany: God’s beautiful revelation to all human beings.

Every year the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany. This is a memorable celebration that reminds us of those endearing Magi who came from the East to venerate baby Jesus. The Epiphany, as the Greek word indicates, is the feast of the manifestation of the child God to the world; it is a manifestation full of tenderness and sensitivity. The Epiphany also reminds many of us of those days back in our childhood when we expected the Wise Men to bring some gift for us on that special night.

Today’s Gospel tells us that those Wise Men decided to follow a star that would lead them to the presence of the world’s savior, a child named Jesus. This Gospel account shows us the impact that the mystery of Christmas has on us; it affects our imagination, our sensibilities, and our whole person. The birth of the Son of God is so important that the liturgical tradition of the church celebrates it on two occasions: Christmas and Epiphany. It is the same event: Christ is born and manifests Himself to all humanity.

The perspective of each Feast is diverse. Christmas mainly evokes the birth of Jesus as the Messiah announced to Israel and made known to the humblest of the people. The Epiphany focuses on the universal projection of Jesus presented as the Savior and Light for all nations.

For this reason, a star was born and is born this Christmas, and it will be reborn the following Christmases. That Star is what we call Jesus. We should ask ourselves the following questions today:

Have we found that star as we go on our daily way?

Have we found the star that fills our lives with joy when we are with our neighbors, with family, at work, and at church?

Have we found the star that invites us to leave our routine and discover new opportunities in this new year?

At the center of the Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus as the Savior of the World; to recognize him, we must start the path towards Him as the Light of the world. The child of God is presented by Mary, with the presence of Joseph, who is indispensable despite not uttering any words. God makes Himself present in the world through those who show Him through attitude, rather than with words.

The feast of the Epiphany of the Lord encourages us to recognize the Lord. It is not enough for God to reveal Himself to us; we must know how to see Him where He manifests himself: in a child, in poverty, in weakness, in innocence, in the son of a woman, and in the son of the carpenter. And that encounter with God requires a profound change from us. If we are believers, we cannot continue to hide our faith. If we believe in the incarnation of the Son of God, we do not have to go looking for God where He surely is not. And God is not in our prejudices, in our interests, on our side, or on the side of the powerful, but on the side of the weak, of the poor, of those who seek peace, respect, reconciliation, and a fraternal world for all.

To find God, like the Magi did, we have to allow ourselves to be led by the star, to go out of ourselves – of all that is ours, to go out to meet others, all others. If we decided to love our neighbor as ourselves, it would not be so difficult for us to believe in God. But, as long as we keep our eyes and our hearts turned towards ourselves, we cannot see our neighbor, nor can we discover God in a child in the arms of his mother.

In this Gospel of the Epiphany of the Lord, the liturgy focuses on the revelation of God to those who do not belong to the Jewish people, to those who are not among the people of the Covenant. In the letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul reminds us that “the Gentiles are joint heirs…of the Promise,” and in the Gospel it is the Magi from the East who came and “worshiped the child.” All this speaks to us of the universality of salvation: Jesus, the Messiah, has come for all peoples.

This is God’s lesson for all of us today: He has no exclusivity; He is not owned by anyone. The Jewish people believed that salvation was only for them, and today many Christians face the same temptation. God comes into our world for everyone and all peoples. We are the ones who set borders and create differences. We are the ones who distinguish between us and others, between natives and foreigners. But for God, we are all welcome to His kingdom.

Making us aware that God has chosen everyone is what can help us consider how to respond to Him with our faith and with our way of life.

The Magi allow themselves to be questioned by the star. They leave their comfortable corner of the world and set out. They search, they ask, and they are not discouraged. Finally, they are able to complete their journey and recognize the significance of what they found.

They saw the Child with Mary, His Mother. Falling on their knees, they adored Him. Faith must be seen as a wonderful adventure, as a call to get out of our corner, as an invitation to seek and accept the bits of truth that others are giving us, and as a reminder not to be discouraged when the star hides and when God is silent. Faith is opening one’s eyes from within and seeing things differently, with a different depth: God’s way. Faith is a learning to decipher His Word, which comes to us in another key–to discover His face in the other, His mark in life, His love in suffering.

The Christian feast of the Epiphany is the announcement of God’s salvation for all peoples and, at the same time, an invitation to open borders to live the faith in a more universal way. The Church must contribute effectively to promoting a world without selfish and unsupportive borders.

Today we celebrate the Epiphany. Jesus, by receiving the pagan Magi according to tradition, reconciles them with God, breaks the barrier of enmity, inaugurates the era of peace, and creates a new human being. Today God manifests Himself as He is: the God of peace and love, a diaphanous manifestation of a Kingdom without borders.

How do we recognize others as members of the one Body of Christ and discover in them the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

How do we achieve a friendly dialogue even with those who develop their life plans outside of Christianity?

We no longer doubt that the Epiphany is more than a feast and that it requires a hard commitment. We no longer doubt that we know how to carry out our commitment as Christians, as members of a single Body that encompasses all human beings without any distinction.

May the Light of Christ enlighten us all and accompany us in this new year.

The Epiphany is the feast of joy – the joy that Mary, Joseph, and the wise men felt; That is why it is good to remember that the joy of faith can overcome any moment of sadness and darkness.

And let’s remember the words of Jesus: I am the Light of the world; whoever believes in me will never walk in darkness.

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Tuesday, January 26 2021
Dear Friends,
Circumstances did not permit me to attend the St. John's | San Juan Vestry meeting last night in its entirety. For a summation of the major points of discussion from that meeting, I hope you were able to catch Fr. R.C.'s highlights of that meeting provided in the January 24, 2021 edition of The Messenger.
If you didn't, please CLICK HERE to view it. As always, should you have any questions about anything, please contact any Vestry member. I know they'll be happy to help!
This was the last meeting for serveral retiring Vestry members. Members of he Class of 2020 included Jr. Warden Ric Weatherman, Andrew Bird and myself. I know you join me in extending many thanks to Ric and Andrew for all they have done for St. John's | San Juan!
While we say good-bye to those retiring members, we will also be welcoming new members when they are elected at our Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 31, 2021 beginning at 11:45 a.m. shortly after the conclusion of our regular 10:30 a.m. service. Be sure to register for the event. You can find registration information in The Messenger I referenced earlier, if you haven't already done so.
This is my final letter to you as Sr. Warden. I'd like to take some time to reflect on the experience. Serving in this position has been such a learning experience for me! When I agreed to serve as Sr. Warden the first time, I had no idea what was to lie ahead. If I had, who knows how I would have responded to his offer? I want to thank Fr. R.C. for letting me continue in that spot for a second year. Thanks, RC!
My personal thanks need to be offered to the other Vestry members for their support and work for St. John's | San Juan during this past year. Included in that list of members are Mary Bruce, Sarah Clifthorne, Doug Mahurin, Troy Atwell, Ted Focke, Fawn Hacker and Bob LeRoy. I truly appreciate all you have done and will continue to do!
Judy Bartels has provided me with so much spiritual guidance and friendship during this process, I would be negligent if I did not extend my thanks to her for everything with which she has helped me. Thanks ever so much, Judy!
To all my St. John's | San Juan family with whom I have had conversations, please know I am thankful you had the confidence and trust to speak with me. Regardless of the nature of the conversation, I appreciate your willingness to express your thanks or your concerns. You've made me a better listener! Thanks!
My wife, Lin, has been an unbelievable source of support during the past three years. Once a month Vestry meetings evolved into weekly Wardens meetings plus the monthly Vestry meeting and the occasional extra meeting that goes along with the territory. And, this past year it wasn't unusual to look at my calendar and see two or three other meetings scheduled per week in addition to the regular monthly meeting. Through all of this, she has been so willing to help where she could. Moving things around to fit schedules, making sure I had something to eat and drink and always wanting to know "if there was anything she could do to help." I really am quite lucky to have her as my wife! Thank you so much, Lin!
Finally, my heartfelt thanks again to everyone for all your encouragement, support and prayers!
In faith,
Mark Hampton
Sr. Warden
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Tuesday, January 26 2021

St. John’s Episcopal Church

Treasurer’s Report for The Chronicle

January 23, 2021

 

Please note: This report includes actions taken by the Vestry at its meeting on January 21, 2021.

The Finance Committee remains on hiatus pending the recruitment of additional members. We also need to stand up a small Audit Committee, ideally comprised of three members with a background in finance, which would meet only twice a year, before and after the annual audit. I welcome suggestions from the congregation of individuals I might approach about serving on these committees. Please contact me at bobleroy05@gmail.com.

Our Budget Report for December 2020 is available on our website (click here). We closed the year with an operating deficit of -$70,347.40, a positive variance to budget of $15,736.26. The deficit would have been far greater had we not withdrawn a total of $191,000.00 from our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust to apply to operating and capital expenses. Our shortfall in pledge payments to budget in 2020 was -$19,512.20 or 7.4%, a tribute to the faithfulness and resilience of our pledging members in a year unlike any other. 

It is also worth noting that we were able to stay current on our assessment payments to the Diocese of Olympia in 2020, creating an opportunity for us to petition for forgiveness of all or part of assessment payments still owing from 2018 and 2019 totaling approximately $77,000.00.

We are still awaiting documents from Bessemer Trust in New York City regarding a $10,000.00 unrestricted cash bequest and hope to receive the funds in February. We have three additional sources of funds for operating expenses: a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) funds, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) proceeds and our (endowment) account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust.

We have just submitted the paperwork to request forgiveness of our first PPP loan in the amount of  $54,577.00. Since we have fully complied with the requirements for the use of the funds, we are confident the loan will be forgiven. Our application for a second PPP loan in an amount not to exceed $63,367.50 has been accepted and is currently in process. We hope to receive approval next week.

One of the conditions for Diocesan approval of our acceptance of the EIDL loan is we would not spend any of the proceeds until completion of an independent audit, currently planned for some time in the first quarter of 2021. However, with Diocesan approval, we withdrew $15,000.00 of the EIDL money and applied it to operating expenses within the guidelines of the loan program. The remaining EIDL funds, $134,900.00, are currently invested in an Investment Advisory Account with Edward Jones. To-date, the market value of the account has increased $6,290.03 to $141,190.03.

To conform to SBA requirements, the Vestry adopted an updated Resolution on the Acceptance and Use of Proceeds from the EIDL Loan

As of December 31, 2020, the balance in our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust was approximately $150,000.00. The Vestry approved the withdrawal of $115,000.00 from this account to apply to anticipated expenses for asbestos abatement.

The Vestry accepted the 2019 Report of Audit prepared by Cynthia Knapp, our Bookkeeper and reviewed in the absence of an Audit Committee by members of the Executive Committee (R.C. Laird, Mark Hampton, Ric Weatherman, and me).

The Vestry approved the 2021 Budget which will be presented at the Annual Meeting on January 31, 2021, following which, it will be posted to our website.

Respectfully submitted…

…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer

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Tuesday, January 26 2021

Renovation Committee Update for the January Chronicle

"What’s past is prologue." – William Shakespeare

All we’ve accomplished since 2016 – water infiltration investigation, property development study, seismic condition study, design, financing feasibility study, hazardous materials survey, permitting – began with a collective decision to renovate the Sanctuary. We’ve consulted with architects, structural engineers, the Episcopal Church Foundation, and environmental health specialists to thoroughly investigate the condition of the building and guide our planning. It’s a daunting task, given the building’s age, scale, and range of deficiencies, but with God’s help, here we are at last – ready to begin construction!

Asbestos Abatement
At its January 21, 2021 meeting, the Vestry approved engaging the Olympia firm Advance Environmental (AE) to abate 9,000 square feet of asbestos-containing material on the east, south and west interior wall texture of the Sanctuary. The contract value with tax is $114,870. That computes to less than $13 per SF, about 1/3 the price of the second lowest bid, and far cheaper than a phased approach.

Beyond the economics of doing it all at once, the Vestry chose to eliminate for good the health risk and potential liability posed by friable asbestos to building users and renovation workers. Even if we were not renovating the building, we should do this.

The next step is to draw up and sign the contract, then prepare the Sanctuary space for abatement work. All the pews will be moved out so AE can erect a negative pressure enclosure to control air flow and maneuver scissor lifts around in the nave to access the high walls. We expect work to start on or about February 8th and take four weeks to complete. For safety reasons, the Sanctuary will be off-limits to everyone except the abatement crew during that time. Our goal is to complete the work by mid-March in the fervent hope that, if public health conditions permit, we may safely return to in-church worship by Palm Sunday and Holy Week in late March.

Part I Construction
Pending the outcome of the upcoming capital campaign, we will contract with FORMA Construction of Olympia to replace the roof and make structural improvements over the summer. Construction cost is $1.001 million, bringing the total Part I budget for design, hazmat, permit and construction to $1.322 million.

Respectfully submitted,
Lou MacMillan, Chair

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Tuesday, January 12 2021

Dear friends,

Welcome to the first issue of The Chronicle for 2021, though not the first issue for the month of January. There will be a second issue at the end of the month, in advance of our Annual Meeting, which will be January 31, 2021.

The last month still feels like a blur to me; our parish life has been busy, as has my personal life, working with my sister to attend to the estate of my father who died in December. I continue to be grateful for the outpouring of love and support from so many in our community. You have helped me immeasurably, and I am eternally grateful.

The last month also feels like a blur because of the level of conflict in our nation. I continue to ask your prayers for our country as we all grapple with the chaos in Washington DC and around the country. I ask your prayers for the members of the outgoing Trump Administration, as well as those of the incoming Biden Administration. I ask your prayers for the elected members of our state legislature, who have begun meeting this week, and for the leaders of the other branches of our state government. Pray for the medical professionals who are working to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections, and for those who recover from it.

The world needs our prayers, our care, and our hope, which we have through Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s keep doing our part, in Jesus’ name.

Blessings,
R.C.+

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Tuesday, January 12 2021

St. John’s Episcopal Church
Treasurer’s Report for The Chronicle, New Year's Edition  |  January 11, 2021

 
Finance Committee

The regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee for December was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. With the resignation of Gerry Apple, the retirement from the Vestry of Mark Hampton and Ric Weatherman at the end of this month, and the demands on Sarah Clifthorne’s time with the legislative session which begins on Monday, we need to recruit new members to continue the work of this important committee. If you are interested in serving on the Finance Committee, or know someone who may be, please contact me.

Our Current Financial Condition

Our Budget Report for November 2020 may be found on our website (//n.b5z.net/i/u/6141178/f/SJOLY_Budget_Report_November_2020.pdf). As of November 30, 2020, our year-to-date operating deficit was -$73,499.51, a positive variance to budget of $15,726,71 attributable primarily to our receipt of $60,000.00 from our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust. Pledge payments were down significantly in November to $14,002.90, -$7,978.10 (36.3%) below budget. Our year-to-date shortfall in pledge payments to budget is -$23,760.30 (9.8%).

Unfortunately, given the current levels of giving, personnel costs, and unbudgeted expenses related to buildings and grounds and the upcoming capital campaign,  we continue to generate less than half of what we need to sustain our operations.

We are awaiting documents from Bessemer Trust in New York City regarding a $10,000.00 unrestricted cash bequest and hope to receive the funds by the end of this month. We have two additional sources of funds for operating expenses: the EIDL loan proceeds and our (endowment) account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust.

One of the conditions for Diocesan approval of our acceptance of the EIDL loan is we would not spend any of the proceeds until completion of an independent audit, currently planned for some time in January 2021. However, with Diocesan approval, we withdrew $15,000.00 of the EIDL money and applied it to operating expenses within the guidelines of the loan program. The remaining EIDL funds, $134,900.00, are currently invested in an Investment Advisory Account with Edward Jones. To-date, the market value of the account has increased $4,731.53.

As of November 30, 2020, the balance in our General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust was approximately $149,500.00. 

We have begun work on our Operating Budget for 2021. Again this year, we are engaging leadership of various ministries to provide input on their anticipated revenue and expenses.  We will present a draft of the Budget for Vestry review and approval at the Vestry Meeting on January 21. We will share the Budget Report for December 2020 and the Operating Budget for 2021 with the congregation at the Annual Meeting on January 31.

Capital Campaign Update

We are finalizing plans for our upcoming capital campaign. In early March, we will share a new case statement with you laying out an exciting vision for the future of our church home along with updated information on the scope and cost of the work to be done on the sanctuary, including removing asbestos from the walls, replacing the roof, completing seismic upgrades essential for public safety, and enhancing our worship space. Early gift solicitation will begin on Sunday, March 7; our campaign kick-off will be on Easter Sunday, April 4, and we will celebrate the conclusion of the campaign on Pentecost, May 23. 

Also, we want you to know that we are now accepting gifts to the capital campaign.  If you would like to make your gift online, please go to our website (https://www.stjohnsoly.org/home), click on the “Give Online | Done aqui” button, and select the new “Capital Campaign” option.  If you prefer to make your gift by check, please make the check payable to “St. John’s Episcopal Church Capital Campaign” and mail it to St. John’s Episcopal Church, P O Box 977, Olympia, WA 98507. 

Respectfully submitted…

…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer (bobleroy05@gmail.com)

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Tuesday, January 12 2021

Dear Friends,

Last year a friend loaned me a copy of the book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas by Jan L. Richardson. It's described as "a devotional guide for pilgrims awaiting the birth of hope." It's a wonderful, little book. It impressed me so much I asked if I could borrow it again when I thought about writing this letter after our last Vestry meeting on December 17, 2020.

As Richardson says, "The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before. It is not possible to keep it from coming, because it will. That's just how Advent works."

She ges on to say, "So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon."

As I reflect on the different aspects of work your Vestry has done over the past few months, I think we (your Vestry) did just as Richardson said about pondering, waiting and wondering. We know more about the condition of our building than we ever have. Through the tireless efforts of Lou MacMillan and his Renovation Committee, we have a greater understanding of the significant challenges of an aging structure as we prepare to address those physical needs. We continue to explore options regarding financing possibilities as we edge closer to seeing the renovation come to fruition.

Difficult, yet essential, steps were taken to address the instances of abuse that have taken place over the years at St. John's | San Juan. Those unpleasant, but necessary, first steps toward healing have been taken. That healing, unfortunately, will not come quickly and is likely to take some time, but we have begun a journey toward restoring health; your Vestry is thankful and proud of all those survivors who willingly shared their stories. Now it is time to move forward with rededication and recommitment to supporting each other.

As we look forward to 2021, your Vestry would like to remind to please return your Annual Pledge Commitment, if you have not already done so. If you have misplaced your Pledge Card, please contact the office for another one, or you may submit your pledge online. Our Capital Campaign will be launched on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021 and will conclude on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021. Look for more information from Treasurer and Capital Campaign Chairperson Bob LeRoy.

"The season of Advent is a season of preparation, a time of getting ready for what lies ahead." Even though Advent is past, I think Richardson's words are a perfect way to wish you a Happy New Year!

In faith,
Mark Hampton, Sr. Warden

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Tuesday, January 12 2021

Remembering the feast of Saint Thomas a look from the Gospel of John.

"On the first day of the week, Jesus entered and stood in their midst."

In the Gospel of John, all the characters that appear are symbolic. Thomas is a symbol of those disciples who had difficulties believing or were reluctant to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. With this in mind, the author of the Gospel has constructed a catechesis which revolves around two central issues for our Easter faith – Thomas’ affirmation of faith and the beatitude that he inspires Jesus to say: “Blessed are those who believe without having seen!”

The Easter experience is one that vitally affected the followers of Jesus andtherefore changed their way of seeing Jesus and God. It could be a lack of exegetical perspective to believe that the disciples' faith was based on the apparitions or the empty tomb. Instead, the Gospels tell us that to see Jesus after his death, we must have faith. The empty tomb, when seen without faith, only leads to the conclusion that someone has taken the body of Jesus, as Mary Magdalene believes; the apparitions could make us think that we are facing a ghost.
 

Chapter 20 of Saint John describes the paschal experience of the disciples on the first day of the week, both in the morning and in the evening. John shows two believers who follow different processes: Mary Magdalene and Thomas. A woman and a man represent those who have difficulty accessing faith in the Risen One. They both want to touch Jesus’s body, and both base their conclusions on their own feelings, but ultimately, both want to believe that Jesus Christ has truly risen.

Mary Magdalene cries, looks for the corpse, and sees the empty tomb, but in the end, she recognizes the voice of Christ, the Word of God, and gives testimony. Thomas has isolated himself from the community; he doubts and is incredulous. He needs to touch something concrete. He does not perceive the signs of the new life that are manifested, and he looks for Jesus as a relic of a past. Ultimately, however, he recognizes Jesus as the Paschal Christ.

Terrified by the execution of Jesus, the disciples take refuge in a familiar house. They are reunited again, but Jesus is not with them. There is a void in the community that no one can fill. They lack Jesus. Who will they follow now? What can they do without Him? It is getting dark in Jerusalem and also in the hearts of the disciples.

Inside the house, they sit with the doors closed. For the disciples, the closed doors represent a community closed in on itself; it is without a mission or a horizon, and
without the capacity to welcome. No one thinks of going out on the roads to announce the kingdom of God and the healing of life. With the doors closed, it is not possible to approach the suffering of others.

The disciples are filled with fear for the Jews who executed Jesus. It is a community that is paralyzed by fear and that holds a defensive attitude. They see only hostility and rejection everywhere. With fear, it is not possible to love the world as Jesus loved it, nor instill encouragement or hope in anyone. Suddenly, the Risen Jesus takes the initiative. He comes to rescue his followers. He enters the house and stands in their midst. Then the small community begins to transform. They move from fear to the peace that Jesus infuses them with. From the darkness of the night, they go on to the joy of seeing him full of life again. From the closed doors, they will soon pass through the opening of their mission in the world.

The cross and death had brought sadness, discouragement, and fear to the hearts of the disciples. They were there with their hearts filled with fear and insecurity, and
with the doors closed to new discoveries. They are still in the night, in slavery. The day and the strength to demonstrate have not come. That is why Jesus infuses them with the Spirit and gives them the greeting of peace together with the attitude of forgiveness. The new Christian community is founded on the Spirit of God, with peace and reconciliation.

Today the presence of Jesus is proclaimed to us in the midst of his disciples: "He stood in their midst." These are significant words. Christ has never contemplated life as a spectator, from outside or from above. Christ is at the center of our lives and our history. He is in the center of our hearts. He is at the center of our pain, our joy, and our hope. He is at the center of our service and the community in which we celebrate our faith. When two or three come together in His name, He is there in the middle. When two or three work in His name, fight in His name, or suffer in His name, He is there in the middle.

That is why at Easter it would seem that we are already in Pentecost; because at Eastertime, there is an outpouring of the Spirit. Also, at Easter there is a spiritual transformation of the disciples. They go from sadness to joy, from fear to strength, from individualism to community, from death to life. And these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, Jesus today is here in the midst of our life experiences and breathes on us. It is important to think that sometimes we resemble those disciples of the Gospel because of our doubts and fears. But the Risen One makes us partakers of His divine and liberating energy.

By receiving the Spirit of the Risen Jesus, our sins are forgiven because He is the reflection of the loving tenderness of our God our Father. Where there is the Holy Spirit, there can be no hatred, just as there can be no darkness where there is light. Where there is the Holy Spirit, there cannot be slavery because Jesus is freedom. Where there is the Holy Spirit, there can be no enmity because God is love.

The risen life of Christ, that of the Spirit, is new life because the old has already been left in the tomb. We no longer need sacrifices for sin because Christ is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Christ is the forgiveness of sins, living reconciliation, and the permanent source of forgiveness and purification for us. His Spirit is the seal of grace and fire of this forgiveness and this reconciliation.

The coming of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John does not occur in the context of the Feast of Pentecost, but in the context of our encounter with the living Christ. This makes sense, especially if we remember that it is precisely the Risen Christ who empowers the church to carry out its transformative mission in the world.

Thus, in the midst of fear and the storms of the lives of His disciples, Christ is known in three ways: in the communal experience of the people of God, by the people who seek Him personally, and by receiving the testimony of the faithful.

Finally, today's Gospel invites us to be witnesses of the Risen Jesus; to be witnesses is to put your whole life at the service of Jesus’s cause. Being witnesses is having the capacity to forgive and forget; it is to overcome hatred and practice justice. To those who are afraid in the midst of the situation we find ourselves today, the Gospel tells us to have peace and trust. To those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic, the Gospel tells us God and Jesus are at the center of our pain and sadness, giving us their company. To those who look to the future without hope, the Gospel tells us the faith in the Risen One always saves us in the face of whatever our most difficult reality may be.

Thank you, Tomas Apostle, because you remind us that many times we are like you; many times we doubt what God can do for each one of us, but we also thank you because even though we sometimes lack faith due to fear, God always tells us, "Peace be with you," and then we can resume our path of faith and recognize Jesus
in our brothers and sisters, in the bread, and in the wine and say, "MY LORD AND MY GOD!"

 

My dear friend Thomas, thank you for inviting me to be a witness of Hope.

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