Monday, 16 April 2012

Finding Peace

Carravagio - The Incredulity og St Thomas
On the evening of that first day of the week,
 when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,  for fear of the Jews,
 Jesus came and stood in their midst
 and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
 The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
 As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,  "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,  and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,  was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."  But he said to them,  "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands  and put my finger into the nailmarks  and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside  and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,  and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples  that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,  and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
John 20: 19-31.

This is one of my favourite Eastertime Gospels. It is so human. Closed doors prove to be no barrier for the Risen One. How often do we think we can hide and yet love and compassion seek us out? In fear the disciples are gathered, hidden and behind locked doors. Why? Because they were frightened. They had witnessed the humiliation and death of Jesus. They were recognised as his followers. You can understand their fear. They killed Jesus and they would have no fear of killing us. Jesus is suddenly present among them and speaks to them of peace. ‘Peace be with you.’ Are the words that accompany any encounter with Jesus after his resurrection. The words fill them with joy and they receive the Holy Spirit.

But what of Thomas? He wasn’t there. He did not receive that gift of peace or of the Holy Spirit and yet we single him out as one who doubts. When Thomas sees the wounds of Jesus and experiences his presence he believes – ‘My Lord and my God.’ He becomes the one who proclaims an act of faith that is echoed throughout the centuries.

When we hide behind locked doors, we do not expect peace and joy to find the way in. Maybe if we attuned  ourselves to the presence of God, (In Carmel we call this the practice of the presence of God) then maybe God’s peace and joy will overwhelm us.

A further thought, Thomas recognised Jesus through his wounds. We often seek to understand suffering but often miss the point. Jesus did not avoid suffering, he fills it with his presence.

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