Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 7, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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 tomina_nedeljayou.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Reflection on the gospel reading: It has struck me for quite a long time that the most powerful testimony to the resurrection is the contrast between how the apostles behaved before and after it. The scriptures make clear over and again that before the resurrection occurred, while Jesus went about his ministry, the apostles often, at best, simply didn’t understand, and at worst, proposed plans that were directly contrary to what Jesus was doing. But when push came to shove, when the Lord’s opponents came to take him away and execute him, they all scattered. In the courtyard at the high priest’s house, a servant girl challenges Peter, and he trembles at the suggestion that he knew Jesus. The gospels do not portray the apostles as courageous visionaries.

In the gospel passage from today’s readings at Mass, we learn that on the first day of the week, the apostles were slouched on the floor, heads bent between their knees, terrified that someone would come to the door to challenge them because of their association with the crucified one. During the day, they had heard wondrous news that Mary Magdalene had seen the Lord, but they nonetheless were afraid.

Suddenly, Jesus appears in their midst. A detail in the narrative offers us an insight that there was something different about Jesus: a locked door could not bar his entrance. Even so, the narrative hastens to assure us this was not the apparition of a ghost since the Lord in this passage makes unambiguous to the apostles the physical nature of what has transpired.

One of the Eleven, Thomas, is not with the disciples when the Lord appears; he refuses to credit the disciples’ testimony and goes so far as to say that unless he can probe the Lord’s wounded side with his hand, he will not believe. A week later, the apostles are assembled again in the Upper Room, and this time, Thomas is among them. Jesus appears again and offers to Thomas the opportunity to test his wounds. This time, Thomas actually moves far beyond his earlier position of intransigent doubt. Only one time in the gospels does anyone to Jesus’ face call him, “God,” and it is Thomas, who had doubted, who does it when in his expression of awe and wonder, he says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”

If you ask for evidence about the resurrection, consider this. Almost to a man, all the disciples who crouched in the Upper Room, the door pulled fast shut and locked against intruders, left everyone and everything they had to travel far and wide to announce what they had seen and heard. And when the challenges to them became so grave that they faced execution, they did not turn their backs on the Lord, as they had at the crucifixion, but embraced death to testify to what they knew to be true.

Sometimes, religious fanatics as a group willingly embrace death for something the group holds. We have incidents like Waco and Jonestown to attest to such phenomena (although many at Waco and Jonestown actually went quite unwillingly.) But the apostles, as they each died for the Lord, did so in different places and times. Their willingness to lay down their lives for what they had experienced was not a social situation but an individual decision in the midst of unique circumstances where the choice for each of them was either to embrace death for their Lord or reject the Lord in the moment as they once had rejected him on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

I see no rational reason for what they did except that, with Mary Magdalene, they were able to say as they one by one went to their deaths, “I have seen the Lord.”

Spiritual reading: The Lord loved His apostles enough to come back and offer his pierced hands to touch. He didn’t rebuke Thomas for his doubt; He gave him a way to believe. (Maureen Lang)


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