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John 20:19-31

The Word of God

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19-31
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    • The Risen Jesus meets his closest friends for the first time after they had all abandoned him in his hour of need. It must have been a moment they were all dreading. Yet his first words, twice over, were, ‘Peace be with you’. No rebuke, no reproach, just ‘Peace!’ And then he showed them his wounds, the unmistakable signs.
    • ‘As the Father sent me, I also send you’. While they were feeling they had failed abysmally as his disciples, he entrusted them with the same mission he had received from the Father: now they knew it was not they who had chosen him, but he had chosen them. Their mission, a mission of bringing forgiveness of sins, was to be carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit. I stand in awe in the presence of the Risen Jesus, sharing his great joy and that of his best friends at this meeting.
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    • Thomas is an ordinary person, knotted up in his own fears and doubts. Perhaps we all carry something of his DNA? Here we are shown the transforming impact which his personal encounter with Jesus has on him. Pope Francis says: ‘I invite all Christians to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.’
    • Sacred Space can be proud, because it anticipated his call by almost twenty years! Let us as a praying community continue to meet the Lord personally and help others to pray in the way we ourselves have learnt.
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    • ‘These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’. The final sentence of this text underlines the purpose of the Gospel in general and of the Resurrection narrative in particular: that through faith in Jesus as the Messiah we may have life in His name.
    • How do you test that Faith in yourself? What strengthens that Faith? What tends to undermine that Faith? What remedy do you have to counter this?
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    • Thomas places his hands in the wounds of Jesus, and the experience draws from him the first, ringing affirmation of Christ’s divinity: “My Lord and my God!” Fully human, and fully divine. Eternally human, eternally divine. His human nature is glorified, just as His divinity is humanised. Our human nature will be forever in Him; His divinity dwells within us, and will remain with us even to the consummation of the world.
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    • Here we are shown twice how Jesus breaks into the lives of his friends. Can he break in on me? Where am I in these scenes? Am I hesitant like Thomas? Am I looking for some sign before committing myself to the fact that I am living in a new world, the world of the resurrection?
    • I let Jesus whisper to me, ‘You will be blessed if you decide to believe!’ To believe in him is to give my heart to him, not just my head. It is not too demanding to do this, because he has already given his heart to me.
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    • Thomas is remembered for his big words: he seemed clear about what he needed to do and what would satisfy him. Yet, faced with Jesus, we see the real Thomas who recognises his Lord and God. He seems to have forgotten his need to probe, his desire for proof. You look beyond my words, Lord - you see what is in my heart.
    • Help me, Lord, to be before you and to hear your word in this time of prayer. You know the needs of my mind. You have heard my words. Now, let me listen for your voice and know your presence. I lay aside my demands to receive what it is you offer to me.
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    • Are the doors of my heart locked? Do I not expect Jesus to show up and visit me? Am I afraid – afraid that my well-ordered ways of thinking and doing things might be turned upside down if I let Jesus in? Jesus, batter my unyielding heart and break down my defences, and come in.
    • ‘Sending’ is what God likes to do. Jesus is sent, the Holy Spirit is sent, and we are sent too. Jesus is sent to bring love, light and truth into the world. I too am sent. I am to bring love, light and truth into my little world. I am important to the plans of God. The world will be better if I carry out my mission.
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    • Brave, honest Thomas had gone off to grieve on his own, so he missed that meeting with the Lord. I can taste some of his isolation and resentment in his Unless.... I will not believe. I have suffered in this way when I isolated myself from the community of faith. It is when I am stunned by sorrow that I most need the company of friends and the support of faith.
    • Thomas was a modern man, finding faith hard, like many people today. He was let down by the others who ran away, the leader denied Jesus, his trust in the group of apostles had been abused. He didn’t want much more to do with them. He had got tired of it all. He wanted to believe but needed a sort of proof. But faith grows within a community. That’s why we baptise children, because faith grows from the beginning of life. We find growth in our faith through the community - for example, in the Mass, shared rosary, sharing our faith in a group, a good spiritual book, sharing our doubts but never closing the door to Jesus, sharing our faith in thanks for what our faith gives us.
    • In community, the disciples found faith in the risen Christ. Thomas, for some reason, was not with them when the Lord came. Separated from the community, he found faith more difficult. Faith in the Lord, while personal, is not a private affair. In the faith of one, the faith of another may be strengthened. Formation in faith for the disciples had its communal experience - together they learned and found faith in the Lord.
    • The risen Jesus penetrates the disciples' defences, overcomes their fears, and brings them joy. I ask him to pass through all my security systems and liberate me from whatever prevents me from 'having life and having it in all its fullness'.
    • Jesus always brings peace and reconciliation. Saint Augustine called peace 'the tranquillity of order', meaning order in my relationships with God, with other people and within myself. Where is there lack of peace in my life? Who do I need to make peace with? Do I make space to experience God's forgiveness and gift of peace? I ask for his peace so that I may bring others peace.
    • How did the others feel when Thomas challenged their testimony? Watch with them when Jesus comes to Thomas. Do they sympathise? Are they a little smug, even judgmental? Perhaps there is a lot of Thomas in me.