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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.

Posted by: AT 12:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email