SEEING THE LORD
(A biblical reflection on SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 1, 2011)
Gospel Reading: Jn 20:19-31
First Reading: Acts 2:42-47; Psalms: Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; Second Reading:1Pet 1:3-9
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. (Jn 20-19-31 RSV)
The apostles/disciples had gathered in locked quarters, worrying whether they were next in line for arrest and execution. But in the midst of their worries, Jesus suddenly came and stood among them. Jesus’ appearance brought them joy and peace, because at that particular moment their desires to see God were fulfilled.
Deep within the hearts of all people has been the desire to see God. On Sinai, Moses prayed, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory” (Ex 33:18). This same prayer echoes throughout the psalms as well: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD” (Ps 27:4).
“Seeing the Lord” is also a major theme in the New Testament, especially in John’s Gospel. For John, ‘seeing’ is associated with belief and faith and, thus, has more to do with the eyes of our hearts than with our physical eyes. “Seeing the Lord” means accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour and knowing the comfort of being called sons and daughters of God. When Jesus healed the blind man (Jn 9:1-41), the most important healing was not the gift of physical sight, but the removal of the man’s spiritual blindness.
One apostle – Thomas [also called Didimus or the Twin] – was absent on that particular occasion, and so missed out on the excitement. The shock of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion had left him brokenhearted, and it seems that in his grief he sought isolation rather than the comforting presence of his fellow disciples. When the disciples told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:25), his unbelief and doubt kept him from allowing the spirit to reveal Christ to him.
Now let us imagine Thomas’ surprise when Jesus suddenly showed up eight days later. Surrounded by his sisters and brothers in faith, Thomas was invited by Jesus to step out in faith. Yes, he finally saw the Lord, his blindness fell away and his doubt gave way to firm conviction and unspeakable joy. And, he proclaimed those great words of faith, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). Not only did Thomas go from unbelief; he went from isolation to community.
Seeing the Lord for who He is requires belief, and this was John’s purpose in writing his Gospel: “…that you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31).
We all long to see God. As we worship Him at Mass today in our own individual times of prayer this week, let us ask Jesus to reveal Himself to us more deeply. Let us pray with Moses, “Show me Thy glory.”
Short Prayer: Jesus, my Lord and my God, how I long to see Your face. Give faith to the fainthearted and hope to the hopeless so that everyone my find life, peace, and joy in Your presence. Amen.
Jakarta, April 29, 2011
A Christian Pilgrim