Get Over It and Get Out There
The disciples were in absolute shock after Jesus was executed. They fled and hid away. Thomas couldn’t stand to be with them. Jesus was executed for being anti-religion. He broke the Law. A real Messiah would never submit to the kind of death Jesus suffered. They were ashamed of their involvement with him. Their Lord and Master didn’t fit the script. Jesus was supposed to free them his people from oppression and violence. Instead, he died from it. They were confused and each one felt debilitated by guilt.
I don’t know about you, but if I saw that group again I would read them the riot act. But instead, when Jesus appeared to them, the first thing he said was Peace be with you: Total and complete forgiveness. And when Thomas finally rejoined the other disciples who saw the Lord first, he demanded to see Jesus’ wounds before he would believe. The Risen Jesus showed Thomas the wounds of his hands, feet, and side. Thomas then made the greatest acclamation of faith in the Gospels: My Lord and my God!
This scene is very important. At the time John’s Gospel was coming together there were two very strong currents flowing among the early believers: Docetism and Gnosticism. Docetism was the thought that because Jesus was God he only “appeared” to die on the Cross. It was just a “show” of God’s love. Gnosticism was similar to Docetism, but different. The only “real” world was the spiritual world. The material world around us is evil and God could have no part of it. It was only an illusion. Since Jesus was God and spiritual, he could have nothing to do with the evil material world. Jesus, as God’s Son, most spiritual, couldn’t have anything to do with the material world and death on a cross. But, on the contrary, Jesus didn’t hide the fact that he physically suffered and died when he showed Thomas his wounds. What Thomas doubted was not the resurrection and that Jesus came back from the dead, but that he died by execution. I won’t believe until I see the wounds.
Jesus said Peace be with you two times, not to calm the disciples fears or take away their anxieties, but to forgive them and send them out in the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Father sent me, so I send you. Their mission was to bring forgiveness and teach forgiveness to the people of this world. The “retain” part was not about judging who was going to “go to heaven” or who was “going to hell,” but aboutthe urgency of getting about the task of forgiveness. God wants to spread forgiveness in the world and the Evil One says “Are you really sure you want to forgive those SOB’s?
Jesus “breathed on them.” Breath communicated the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. The Paraclete is the one who is “called alongside,” para (alongside) kletos (called). The main role of the Holy Spirit, aka, the Paraclete, is to stand alongside of victims, those who suffer violence caused by the powerful in this world. Jesus didn’t bestow the Holy Spirit upon them to make them feel better, all warm and fuzzy, but to do the work of standing up to the victimizers of this world who scapegoat the powerless for their own ends. And forgive them.
The power of Jesus’ Resurrection is forgiveness. So often, “faith in God” is thought to be about believing that God will support us in defending our “God-given” precious values at all costs against the evil and bad people who are our enemies. The violence, destruction, and death we cause our enemies are “sacred” because God backs us up. Many believe this is having “faith in God.” Not believing for an instant that God would have us forgive our enemies or, God forbid, love them.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he didn’t gather them to make a plan for getting even with those who called for his death and the officials who actually gave the order to put him to death. Instead, he forgave the disciples who abandoned him, forgave them, and gave them the power to forgive others and ordered them to get about it. Only forgiveness begins a process that makes peace possible, retaliation simply keeps the cycle of violence going.
On this Second Sunday of Easter we learn that faith in God is not easy. Real faith in God means believing that the violence of this world can be eliminated only by forgiveness and non-violence. This is faith in God! The Holy Spirit stands with those who practice this faith. Our belief in the Resurrection of Jesus takes away our fear. We have already died with Christ in Holy Baptism. We have been forgiven and can forgive others. We can get over our fear and guilt and get on with forgiving.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.