Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 11th of April 2021
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Divine Mercy Sunday
There are many striking images in this Gospel. The eerie sense of fear and trembling creates a chilling and claustrophobic atmosphere at the start of text. We can feel the sadness of fearful hearts in hiding behind their closed doors. The disciples we are told were afraid of the Jews. However the Jews are their people, their tribe, their culture, and their neighbours. It is a challenging dynamic, the tragedy of a people turned against each other. Those outside the room are a threat and the disciples are afraid. There is also much trauma in the room. They have lost a beloved friend in violent and cruel circumstances. The disciples are dealing with their own responses regarding that awful event. Peter is dealing with the cowardice he showed in his denial of Jesus. The other disciples are dealing with their fleeing from Jesus in his hour of need. There is also the harsh reality that they are disconnected to the world outside their closed room. They don’t know what is happening outside so it is left to their imaginations to wander the lonely maze of worst case scenarios. This is a room overflowing with fear, sadness, grief, guilt and shame. This is a wounded place and a wounded people.
And it is into that room that Jesus appears. Locked doors do not stop him. Fear does not stop him. Sadness does not stop him. Grief does not stop him. Guilt does not stop him. Shame does not stop him. His first words are “Peace be with you”. He feels the fear of his friends and offers them the precious gift of peace. His presence brings both peace and consolation. If the disciples can look beyond themselves they will see and understand that Jesus is truly with them and that his presence is all they need. Jesus does not belong in the realm of the dead but delights in making himself known in the land of the living. What is remarkable is how Jesus returns with His wounds. His resurrection is not manifested in bodily perfection but rather he carries the wounds of his own broken humanity. More than the words he speaks perhaps it is the wounds that speak to the disciples. We read how the disciples are filled with joy. How they must have wanted that joy to last forever? However the moment must pass and they will return to their fears and preoccupations. “Peace be with you” is spoken three times by Jesus. How many times does something have to be said before it can be heard and accepted? The unfairly named Doubting Thomas is absent the first time Jesus appears. He shows himself a man of character by wanting to see what the others saw, wanting to experience what they experienced. Jesus appears again and Thomas sees and believes. The question remains how Thomas gets struck with the name Doubting Thomas. Admittedly he began by doubting but in the end he professes faith that Jesus is his Lord and his God. So why in choosing a description of Thomas do we concentrate on the doubt? Why do we emphasise that which is both incomplete and untrue? Words fail to do justice in giving a full description of his experience. Thomas grows in the story. He grows in faith. He is so much more than his initial doubts.
The story also highlights Jesus bringing to the disciples the precious gift of breath. In many ways this is an extraordinary image. The disciples were breathing before Jesus entered the room. They would be breathing after he left. So in a sense the gift of breath could be seen as a gift of nothing at all that didn’t exist already. However breath is life, it is the centre and the core of our living. Our lives begin with our first breath. Our lives will end with our final breath. Every breath between our birth and death is a gift from God to be treasured and cherished. Breathing is so innate we take it for granted. However the gift of a breath is the gift of life. It is also the gift of a new beginning. We pray for the breath of God to fill our hearts and minds with his love. We pray for a new beginning.
– Father Paddy Moran CSSp