This is actually one of my favorite Gospels. For one, it challenges the amount of faith we have in our Lord. Whenever, I reflect on a Bible passage I try to become more than just an observer and actually place myself in the midst of the story and become one of the characters. I can see and feel how terrified these apostles were after the crucifixion of the Lord and also how much they were mourning. I mean, He was a very close friend to them...probably more like family than anything. So they were mourning the loss of their friend, brother, and teacher and also scared that maybe they would be next to be killed. So when Jesus entered through the locked door (Jn 20:19), you can imagine their reaction and just mixed emotions to have someone they truly loved to come back from the dead! Jesus knew how they were feeling and that they had been hiding, so He greets them with “Peace be with you”. At mass we say this to each other after the “Our Father,” but after doing some reflecting on this passage, my meaning behind that has added more depth to it. Jesus was not just greeting them with a simple “hello” or “good morning” but actually spreading peace into their minds, hearts, and souls. How comforting that must’ve been for them. Jesus must have felt a need to say that to his disciples since he repeats it three times throughout this gospel. Now, when I say to someone at mass “peace be with you," I will say it with more conviction to serve as a reminder that no matter what you may be going through, God’s peace is with you to comfort and strengthen you.
The other important part of this reading is the commissioning of the disciples. One of my favorite songs sung at mass is “You Are Mine”. I don’t know why, but everytime I hear it I always get emotional when it comes to the part that says, “I have called you each by name, come and follow me...I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine." It’s a reminder to me of Whose I am and that I have a purpose to serve in this world. In John 20:21, Jesus tells His disciples that the time has come for them to come out of hiding and spread the Good News. All of His time with them, teaching them, witnessing to them, has been to prepare them for this moment. He breathes on them the Holy Spirit and tells them “As the Father has sent me, so I send you." A moment of empowerment. I wouldn’t blame them for being nervous about what is to come, but thanks be to God for their astounding courage and commitment to going out, evangelizing, and giving up their lives and being the start to our Catholic Church.
I know Thomas gets a lot of flack for doubting a little bit about Jesus returning. But I bring it here to today and think about how many doubters we still have! We have a common saying that expresses our insistence on tangible proof of every faith claim: "I'll believe it when I see it." I think that’s kind of sad! Jesus himself says to us in this gospel “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”(Jn 20:29). I’ve thought to myself many times how lucky it was for the disciples to witness Jesus’ teachings and miracles in the flesh and if I were there, my faith would be through the roof! I know that’s easy to say now, but then I ask myself why it isn’t that way now? We have the stories written all over the Bible to help us believe, as well as everyday miracles if we just look for them. From the majestic mountains and all of his creation to a family member being cured of a serious illness to the miracles of birth. And if we go to mass regularly, we witness a miracle there each time when the bread and wine are turned into Jesus’ body & blood! I know that sometimes we have questions and maybe even doubts about certain aspects of our Catholic faith, but Jesus asks us to believe even though we may not have all of the evidence we may need to confirm this. There are things that our mind just can’t comprehend, even though our hearts want to. This is where FAITH comes in. And Jesus says that we are blessed for it. We have many examples, testimonies, and witnesses of Jesus’ life and legacy written in the Bible to help us believe. I don’t think it is ever wrong to question or doubt, as long as we seek answers that will bring us closer to God. But where we don’t have the necessary answers we may need, let’s offer those up to God and ask Him give us the courage and strength we may need to be a firm believer.
Through the gospels, we have learned a lot of the weaknesses of Jesus’ first disciples and loyal friends: Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, Thomas doubting,etc. I don’t think it takes away from their credibility, but reminds us of their humanity and that they too, like us, are flawed. I invite you to reflect today on a few things. First, think about which one of Jesus’ first disciples are you more like? Are you more like Peter, Judas, or Thomas when they deny, betray, or doubt? Or are you perhaps more like Peter, Judas, Thomas and all of the other apostles when they said “YES” to Jesus, left their families and lives and followed Him?! Secondly, how might Jesus be calling you? How is He sending you out today and everyday? Each of us has a different calling and different strengths that we can provide for our communities and our world. How might Jesus be wanting to use your strengths that He Himself has equipped you with? Let’s pray to Him for strength and courage to be a better follower..."Lord Jesus Christ, through your victory over sin and death you have overcome all the powers of darkness. Help me to draw near to you and to trust in your life-giving word. Fill me with you Holy Spirit and strengthen my faith in your promises and my hope in the power of your resurrection.” Amen
St. Euphrasia, Granada Hills