“My Lord and my God!”
Second Sunday of Easter 2022
Let’s walk through this post-Resurrection gospel, first situating things.
According to what John explicitly says, prior to this appearance,
only Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus.
Indeed, the gospels unanimously present Mary Magdalene
as the first to see the Risen Lord.
Why Mary Magdalene?
Why not Mary?
It perhaps was Mary, such the normal course that it need not be mentioned.
The Scriptures are silent about certain things
which are to be intuited by the heart….
Why not Peter, chief of the apostles, or John, the beloved disciple?
I like to think that Jesus goes first where hearts most thirst.
Pretty good rhyme, huh?!
Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus—in the deep(est) sense.
After Mary Magdalene, Jesus appears here to the Apostles,
who are locked in a room, seized by fear.
Nowhere near the courage of Mary Magdalene!
They are in Jerusalem, which, per some etymologies, means “abode of peace”.
And what does Jesus say to them?
“Peace be with you”.
In a sense, Jesus declares Himself, in the mystery of His Resurrection,
the abode of peace, the definitive Prince of Peace.
Peace is the fruit of right order.
There is peace when all things are in place, as they should be.
The rightest order, our rightest place is relationship with God,
into which the Risen Lord most intimately introduces humanity.
Jesus thus comes to the Apostles to reassure them
and to introduce them more deeply into right relationship with God:
“Peace be with you”.
He then breathes the Holy Spirit upon them,
granting them authority to forgive sins: instruments of overflowing mercy.
They are not simply beneficiaries of but are participants in the Resurrection.
Entitlement check: we are not here as spiritual consumers,
but as disciples and friends eager to be transformed
and sent forth in the power of the Holy Spirit which Jesus breathes upon us.
There is, however, as often the case, one unsavoury apple: Doubting Thomas.
Thomas was not with them when Jesus came.
Another Thomas, Aquinas, in his commentary 1200 years later, says
so he had missed the comfort of seeing the Lord,
the conferring of peace and the breath giving the Holy Spirit.
This teaches us not to become separated from one's companions.
We need the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Thomas’ presence is strangely reassuring for us, who, at times, doubt.
“I will not believe,” he says.
As Saint Gregory (monk, Scripture scholar, Pope, sometimes called the Father of Christian worship, greatly admired by John Calvin, died in 604) says
the disbelief of Thomas was of more benefit to our faith
than the faith of the disciples who did believe.
Jesus goes directly to those who desire deeply and intensely.
and those who struggle to believe.
Put your finger here and see my hands.
Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.
Look at the cover of your bulletin a faint image of the famous 1601 painting
by Caravaggio (now in Berlin, Germany).
Up close and personal, Thomas’ finger plunged into the flesh of Jesus’ side.
A tactile learner, apparently!
The wounds, which could have been healed in the Resurrection,
remain for our benefit.
The same Saint Gregory says,
It is the plans of Divine Mercy that by feeling the wounds in the flesh of his Teacher, the doubting disciple should heal in us the wounds of disbelief.
The simplicity with which Thomas touches suggests, to me, that what moved him most was not simple intrigue but Christ’s gentle mercy.
Jesus welcomes him in his unbelief.
Jesus then proceeds to proclaim the beatitude of faith,
the happiness that awaits those who are willing to believe
In a sense today’s marquee phrase:
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe.”
Jesus can only proclaim such happiness if, in faith, we touch Him
—with our hearts and minds, of course.
Happiness necessitates communion with the object of our desire.
Faith is not simply a set of beliefs.
Beliefs per se are not life-giving, not happiness-giving.
Even though it is without seeing Him,
faith enables us to touch the Risen Lord.
And one day (one eternity) we will see the One Whom we touch in faith.
Faith ends in the Beatific Vision.
If, during our earthly pilgrimage, without seeing,
we are in communion with Christ, the object of our greatest desire,
there are joy and peace which surpass understanding.
Hence the words of Peter in his first epistle (1:9)
“Although you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”
No one and nothing, no trying circumstance, no rejection/feeling of isolation
can keep us from touching God.
All we need to do is to want it, be willing to believe, and we touch.
Blessed are we who have not seen and have come to believe.
Let us touch the Risen Lord in faith
—in our hearts, in one another, in the Eucharist,
and be full of wonder, gratitude, joy and peace.
Let us be people of the Resurrection.