Second Sunday of Easter: John 20: 19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymusa), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The risen but wounded Jesus stands among his disciples. “Jesus showed them his wounded hands and side.” The wounds help recognition. They don’t hurt now. Jesus’ body isn’t a “brought-back-to-life body”, like Lazarus’ but a risen body: Jesus has passed through death to a new way of being; perhaps the word spiritual helps; but we don’t fully understand. At least, we know that for Jesus there will be no more suffering
They are glorious wounds. Glorious in that they have power to save us. On the big canvas Jesus destroyed death and nailed sin to the cross. On the one-to-one level, as the encounter with Thomas shows, Jesus’ wounds healed Thomas. Thomas now was the one whose wounds hurt. His negativity (“I refuse to believe”), his stubbornness (“unless I see the holes ...”) and the loneliness that followed; isolated among the Apostles. Thomas was walking in darkness. Jesus’ wounds changed all that: “Thomas, put your hand into my side ...”
My ageing body is not without wounds: physical, psychological, emotional: the darkness in which I live. Jesus, for sure, wants to heal my wounds but will I let him. Can I succumb humbly? Can I open my heart to Jesus as Thomas did: “My Lord and my God”? Can I make that leap of faith to entrust myself to Jesus our “sure hope”.
Our wounds can darken our lives: anger or bitterness can gnaw away at us; an oft--repeated sin can dominate our consciousness; We can cultivate hatred that no love can shift. We each know our own darkness. Yet Jesus can transform these weaknesses. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”; blessed are those who believe that Jesus can heal them.
Why does Jesus want to heal us our wounds? Because he loves each one of us with “great mercy”; offering a “glorious joy that can never be described.” Furthermore, there is work to be done. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. The apostles were sent out to preach. We shall listen to the Acts of the Apostles in the coming weeks. We too are sent out to work for the kingdom. Like the apostles, in order to work the better, we too need the Lord’s strength and consolation.
Lent Holy Thursday (John 13: 1-5)
Why did Jesus wash his disciples’ feet?
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Was it a parable in action? Like the occasion when Jesus put a small child in their midst; exhorting them to childlike humility; not worldly ambition. “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you”. The earlier Gospels, Mark, Luke and Matthew had stressed that we should love God and our neighbour; indeed, we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves. John, the last of the evangelists, raises the stakes. Our love for one another should be patterned on Jesus’ love for us. This is what makes the commandment “new”.
Notice John omits the command to love God. If we love one another with the sincerity that Jesus loved us, God is truly loved. Elsewhere John simply says God is love. Love became human and loved us. When we join in this movement of love, love is complete.
When Christ washed his disciples’ feet, doing the dirty work expected of servants, this was a parable, a moment of teaching. But it was more than a parable. It involved a loving encounter with the feet of the one who was about to betray him; Judas. It involved trying to steady a fragile disciple: Peter.
Can we, fragile that we are, accept the challenging message of the washing of the feet? Christlike, unconditional love of others: not categorising, despising and destroying but accepting and loving until it hurts. We go beyond the foot-washing to the words of the Eucharist. Baptised, we all proclaim the death of the Lord. That is, we die with him. We will fulfil our vows to the Lord. Here the going gets tough. We receive the bread of life. We drink the cup of salvation. We rejoice in the Eucharist as food for the journey; not a reward for good boys/ good girls but the food we all need because we are sinners.
Ian Tomlinson SJ