Because of what is really out there in our world, we become aware that there are various challenges to our faith both in Jesus and in what he did. Today’s Gospel, the second Sunday of Easter (John 20:19-31), offers us some suggestions of what we can do to encounter these challenges.
There are principally two themes that are particularly helpful: (1)-The “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples. (2)-The case of the doubting Thomas.
First of all, the theme that the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples. I emphasize the word “resurrected” because we clearly see that there was one Jesus before his death, and another one after his resurrection. The time that Jesus was with his disciples, preaching and teaching and giving example of what the disciple should hope for, was a time of “promise.” Jesus’ example of compassion, justice, forgiveness was what the disciples were to do to carry on his work. Then Jesus was executed and the “promise” seems to have been totally dissapated. There was great disappointment among the disciples. What would happen now?
Having raised from the dead the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7:11-16), the little girl (Mark 5:38-42), and Larazus (John 11: 38-44), Jesus showed that he had power over death. So his own resurrection turned out to be another sign of this power. BUT, along with the manifestation of the “resurrected” Jesus to his disciples, came the commitment given to the disciples.
As he manifested himself to his disciples in the locked room, he then entrusted his future ministry to them. “AS the Father sent me, SO I also send you.” And more to the point, “Recive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit was not much more than the creative power of God enabling the disciples to carry on successfully the ministry of Jesus to the rest of the world. One has only to examine the biblical readings for Pentecost to see how it was done.
Secondly, regarding the theme of the doubting Thomas. It turns out that Thomas needed proof in order to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. The next time Jesus manifested himself to his disciples in a room with locked doors, Thomas was with them. One can almost visualize Jesus beckoning Thomas, with arched eyebrow and the “oncoming” wag of the finger saying, in effect, “Thomas, come here.” He was told to put his finger in the hands that had been nailed, and his hand into the side which had benn opened by a sword. The reality of the situation hit Thomas, which enabled him to say, “My Lord and my God.” An act of faith. We often make that same act of faith at the elevation of the bread and wine during the Mass. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you come to believe in me because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” Conversion from doubt to faith.
It seems that we can learn something from this Gospel. Regarding the first theme, the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples: Though the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to us in many ways, it seems that the most significant way is through our BAPTISM. It is at our Baptism that we are commissioned to continue the ministry of Jesus to the rest of the world, for example: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.” And then there is the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit….”
Concerning the second theme, the doubting Thomas. Thomas needed to see in order to believe. He needed proof. However, our FAITH helps us to understand who Jesus is and what he does, as long we pray for insight and study the biblical texts. Our faith fulfills the promise made by the earthbound Jesus now through the “resurrected” Jesus by the nature of Baptism.
So the truth is that “Yes” it is certain that the resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus that travelled with his disciples before his execution. At which time his example of justice, compassion, understanding and compassion is now commissioned to us, as we continue to manifest Jesus to others by nature of our Baptism and Faith.