Dear Followers of the Christ,
In John 20:19-31, we follow the disciples into a closed room. The locked doors and the closed windows reveal the fear of those who were left behind after Jesus’ death. I can’t blame them for being hunched over in pain. They witnessed the tragedy of Jesus’ cross. They thought he was the one to follow. They put all their hope in this man who suffered severely and died in front of them. They had no idea what to do next or where to go for healing.
In this dingy room, we can smell the sweat of fear on the disciples. We can hear their silence. We feel the tinge of regret and the overwhelming fear of death. In their locked cage, the future seemed dim and uncertain. Can you imagine this moment? The disciples were afraid because they believed that they would also die. They believed that because they followed Jesus, the authorities would also come after them. I am not sure we can comprehend the severity of such fear and overwhelming darkness.
However, even in their great fear, Jesus stood in their midst. Jesus appeared to them in great love. On his body, he bore the scars of his death. On his hands and feet, the deep wounds of the nail marks revealed his identity. These wounds were his sign of authority. He indeed had risen from the dead. The nail marks told the story of what had happened in the prior days. The nail marks assured the disciples that it was truly him, not an impostor.
Then, they heard him speak. The first words of Jesus Christ after rising from the dead were these, “Peace be with you.” Wow. These few words are not only to ease the fear of those huddled together, but these words also span across the generations and into our lives as well. In the face of tragedy and even death, Jesus offers the peace of his presence. These words should be tattooed on the hearts of every believer. These words should be the foundation of our lives together. These words herald a new era in history and a new way of living even in our day. He rose from the dead. He brings peace eternally.
We need these words more than ever in our world. We are not only called to hear them, but we are also called and challenged to live them. Peace is not an abstraction; it is a way of life. Peace is not about a left-wing conspiracy or a right-wing ideal. Peace flows from the mouth of Jesus Christ as his first offering to his disciples after the grave. Imagine that. If this is the case, then it must become the central teaching of our faith, our relationship with Christ, and of the Church.
Thomas was not with the disciples at the first encounter with the Christ. Jesus appeared to Thomas later. He was stunned by Christ’s presence. He could not believe such a reality. He wanted to touch his wounds and put his hand into his side. He wanted to find out for himself that Jesus had risen. I do not blame Thomas for his inquisitive nature. Thomas believed in Jesus and wanted to find again the intimacy of his touch. “My Lord and my God,” exclaimed Thomas as he touched the beauty of the nail marks. I want to touch Jesus’ body and find out for myself that he is risen, that he is the source of life for all eternity. Thomas models deep faith for me, not the doubt of his reputation.
This gospel text is a source of much love within my heart. It is this text upon which I preached the day after I was ordained a priest 39 years ago. The Congregation of Holy Cross ordains our men on the Saturday after Easter each year. So, we preach on the Second Sunday of Easter for the first time as priests. In all three liturgical years, this text is proclaimed. This means that all our priests preach on this gospel the first day of priesthood.
The disciples were privileged to discover the Risen Christ. They reached out from their fear in the dark room to encounter the love, the light, and the integrity of Jesus, Risen in Glory. His redeemed wounds give us courage and vitality to serve and love in our world.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor