This Sunday's Gospel: John 20.19-31
We all understand “cause and effect.” If we do some action then we know that some result will happen. For example, if I eat chocolate cake every day, I know that the result will be an even bigger stomach than I already have. This Sunday we are given just such a “cause and effect” passage from John’s Gospel. We hear in the story that it is Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead. The disciples were together in a locked room. They were afraid that they too would be arrested and put to death. The Risen Lord, however, then appeared to them. Saint John writes, “Jesus came and stood among them . . . he showed them his hands and his side.” And the Lord said to them “Peace be with you” which he repeated two times. We are also told that Jesus gave to them the Holy Spirit, he “breathed on them.” Here we have the original situation of the disciples – they were locked away, they were hiding and filled with fear. But with the visit of the Risen Lord, their situation dramatically changes. As a consequence of his appearing to them, we hear that in the following week the disciples no longer locked the door nor were they afraid. We see the effect of the Risen Lord upon them. What had changed within the hearts of the disciples?
When the Risen Lord said “Peace be with you” to the disciples, he was not offering a greeting. He was, rather, proclaiming the new reality. Things have changed in the New Age of the Resurrection. The Risen Lord has given to us a share and participation in his own relationship with God the Father. A participation in his own Sonship. This means that in the New Age, through the Risen Lord, we have become the children of the Father, God’s daughters and sons. His gift to us is not merely the bestowing of a title, but it is the sharing of relationship, it is being given and receiving the love of the Father as the Father’s child. It is this experience that so moved the disciples to transcend fear to boldness. It isn’t as if the danger disappeared, nor that they were infused with courage. They were given both the reality and experience of the Father’s unquenchable love for them. As a result, the disciples began to be inspired by a different power within their hearts. No longer were they preoccupied by danger and fear, no longer did they lock their door, no longer did they hide. The pouring out of the Father’s love through the Risen Lord overflowed from the disciples’ heart: “Through [their] believing [they] have life in his name.”
Though much time has passed and we do not have the same privilege of seeing the Risen Lord in the flesh as the disciples then did, we have not been left neglected. In addition to the community of the Church and its sacramental life, Saint John says that the Gospel has been written so that we may have access to the Lord. We can read and then reflect and pray with Jesus’ words, teachings and actions. Through the Holy Spirit we can imagine ourselves in need of healing, either physically like the man born blind or spiritually like Saint Matthew the Tax Collector. We can imagine ourselves being forgiven, of receiving mercy like the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We can imagine ourselves in the presence of Mary and seeing her singular devotion to her God. We can imagine Jesus carrying the Cross and being crucified on Calvary. And we can imagine coming to the tomb, filled with sadness, but then seeing the stone rolled away. With God’s grace, and our growing openness and freedom to receive, the gift of his Resurrection can be ours as much now as it was for the disciples then. In all things, our responsibility is to foster the love of the Father within our hearts and to persevere in this singular devotion. For he has come to give you life and life in abundance. It may seem an intimidating responsibility but he is always at work within us. As he said to Saint Thomas and to each of you, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”