On Divine Mercy Sunday, Holy Mother Church gives us verses (20:19-31) from the Gospel of John so that we may be among the blessed ones. She wants us to be among those who, although they have not seen, have believed nonetheless. She wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief we may have Life (with the capital L) in his name.
In light of this, I need to point out the obvious. A few decades ago the obvious was indeed obvious. But, nowadays, so many things derail us from being fully alive that the obvious needs to be pointed out. Alas, this is true even for those who consider themselves disciples of Jesus.
Here is the obvious: now, at this moment, we are looking for Life and not simply for life (with a lower case l) that leaves our mind confused or numb and our heart wanting much more. The picture presented for our consideration is one of semi-paralysis. The doors are locked securely and whatever resemblance of life is left is in the grips of fear. Oh, how this picture resembles our life already!
What are the fears that affect our sleep, our digestion, our thoughts, our relationships and that keep us from enjoying life? The first piece of good news is that even firmly locked doors will not keep our Risen Lord away from us. Let us never forget that our Lord cannot endure seeing us frightful, apprehensive, troubled and hurting. However, by greeting us with his peace he is already looking beyond the observable, evident sources of our fear. We should know that his peace is packed with heavenly, restoring power.
In John 14:27, Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. The peace that the Risen Christ offers as soon as he irrupts into our miserable mess is the same peace that was present when God saw that all He had created in the very beginning was very good.
Peace is creation enjoying fullness, harmony, order, perfection, and pristine innocence. In other words: the peace given us by Christ is a world without sin! We already begin to realize that as soon as we let Christ Jesus into our frightened and messy life, Life begins to blossom again.
And how does the Risen Christ accomplish this? He does so by breathing his Spirit on us; thus making us a new creation. In the beginning, God breathed his Spirit into Adam who became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) In his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:45), St. Paul makes this intriguing connection: The first man, Adam, became a living being, [Jesus] the last Adam a life-giving spirit. This is precisely what, according to the Father’s plan of salvation, had to occur for us to receive Life.
Jesus had foretold it: On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. (Jn 7:37-39)
As Jesus had predicted, the apparent demise of the cross manifested his glory (John 17:1) a glory confirmed by his resurrection. The Risen Lord, penetrating the walls of our miseries, proves to us that we are meant to pass from a bland human life to his Life; from sadness to joy; from sin to forgiveness; from disorder to peace and harmony; from stifling fear to zeal in carrying out our mission.
The Spirit that he breathes on his fledging Church empowers some to forgive sins and all of us to realize clearly and unequivocally how sin is responsible for the clouding of our minds, for the restlessness of our hearts and for the insidious resignation that leads us to settle for a substandard way of living rather than the Life that his victory has won for us all and is meant for us all. By breathing his Holy Spirit on us, the Risen Lord shows how he is consumed by the desire to lift us from the throes of dejection and prostration up to complete joy and abundant Life. And Jesus also told us:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Given the disquieting situation in which we have been living nowadays, from one day to the next, we might exercise our discipleship with very modest expectations from our Lord. However, the lowering of our expectations whenever the Lord irrupts into our lives would amount to a resignation that insults him and exposes our failure to notice his wounds.
Yes: we must not overlook that the Risen Lord who breathes his Spirit on us, shows also his wounds for us to see. They are now glorified wounds that he will keep for all eternity not only as a reminder of being forever inseparable from us and our wounds; but also as evidence of the awesome healing power of his Holy Spirit.
The Risen Lord, who has experienced wounds in all similar to those still on our bodies and in our hearts, knows of the compelling need to heal and to lift up even those who are absent for whatever reason. His desire to heal, to fill every one of his disciples with joy and Life is such that he returns purposely to restore the very same faith in Thomas and in anyone who might have trouble believing; so that all will believe; all will be blessed and all will share in his glory.