BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE
(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A] – 23 April 2017)
[SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY]
Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31
First Reading: Acts 24:42-47; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; Second Reading: 1Peter 1:3-9
The Scripture Text
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 these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)
Our knowledge is so far from being absolute, and our information so limited, that we have to treat all data with humility. It is precisely with such humility that we must approach the scriptural accounts of Christ’s resurrection, and not with the kind of obstinacy shown by Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe until he had touched the wounds of Christ’s body.
Thomas failed in two ways: he wanted to verify the faith by physical means, and as well he was not prepared to accept what the rest of the Christian community had by now come to believe. However, we should never imagine that, because of visions of the risen Christ which all the Apostles were privileged to experience, the road to faith was an easier one for them than it is for us. Indeed Luke states quite clearly that when Christ, in the Upper Room, had shown them His hands and His feet, “they still thought it was too good to be true”. It was not only Thomas who doubted. They all had to grapple with the question of what really had occurred (see Luke 24:36-41). And their message for us, and that of Mary Magdalene also in her search for the body of Christ, could well be summed up in the inspired words of the prophet Jeremiah: “You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). This risen Lord was no phantom or hallucination, but rather so real that one could touch or cling to Him. The Jesus who had died was in very truth the Christ who had risen again.
At the Last Supper, Christ had said to the Apostles: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). And in today’s Gospel reading we can see how Christ kept His promise, “then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). For us also, Jesus must be, not a figure in a book, not a memory from the past, but rather a living presence, one who is with us here and now. To those who, like Thomas, would argue that this is making too great a demand on our credulity, Christ replies, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). Faith is like taking a step in the dark while trusting absolutely in what God is promising to us as the consequence.
The resurrection of Christ was a unique happening that lies beyond all human reasoning or understanding. The writer of “the Letter to the Hebrews) says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11:1,3). The first chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the universe began in a single flashing act of creation.
The resurrection of Christ, of which we are celebrating the octave, is a mystery also. The risen glorified body of the Lord is a new creation. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Faith, joy – a faith which leads to and is the cause of joy – that is the message for us today. But there is more. For in our following of Christ, even though we have not as yet passed through the portals of death, we also can become part of this new creation initiated by Christ. We might even begin to speak off a third creation, for by our faith in the saving effect of Christ’s death and resurrection, as Paul tells us, we become something extra (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We are made children of God Himself. We are no longer slaves, but friends, and so on this day we should ask that we may receive and our joy, like that of the Apostles, may be full (John 16:24).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour the living water of the Holy Spirit over my heart, so that I may bear fruit for You. Come, Holy Spirit, and reveal Jesus to my heart today. Let me know the Lord and the power of His resurrection. I want to become a new creation today. Amen.
Jakarta, 21 April 2017 [EASTER OCTAVE: FRIDAY]
A Christian Pilgrim