Easter is here. Christ is risen. We have journeyed through the desert of Lent, through temptations and the reality that our failings and shortcomings have put Jesus on the cross. And now throughout this season of Easter we celebrate the victory He has won for us through His resurrection.
In the Gospel today(John 20.9-31) we hear about Jesus appearing to His disciples who were, in hiding in a closed room, afraid of what would happen to them. Amidst their doubts and fears, probably amidst their guilt for not having done enough to prevent Jesus’ death. Amidst the sorrow of losing their close friend and teacher they had the doors shut, for what security and safety they could get. All of a sudden Jesus came and stood among them. He entered into their doubts and fears, their sorrows and guilt, and brought His peace. He greeted them twice, “Peace be with you,” and they were filled with joy.
How often in our lives do we settle in our sorrow, our guilt, or allow our fears to close us up. When we are hurt we close our hearts to others, but also sometimes to the Lord; Jesus, who wants to bring us His peace.
This scene that we see in the Gospel is also that of the beginning of the Church. With his disciples gathered in the room Jesus sends them out and commissions them, with peace, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” inviting them to receive life in Him through the working of the Spirit and to share that life with others. Jesus also calls us to receive His life, His Spirit, which empowers us to be His life to the world: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Further to this we see, in the first reading(Acts 4.32-35), the early church in action, the gifts and blessings received by each being shared with all. “There was not a needy person among them.” We see this same model in families(parents giving to their children and children contributing their joy and unique gifts), and I also see this model as a large part of your culture, the native culture, that all are cared for and supported by one another(I witnessed this example recently having a community meal after a funeral with one clan cooking & helping with the needs of the other clan). The church’s idea, as we see in scripture, is that all would be ‘of one heart and soul!’
This idea of community, “church”, is affirmed by something greater than us, as we see Thomas’ response to Jesus’ appearance: “My Lord, and my God.” This is a profound response of faith, Thomas’ belief that Jesus is God; If Jesus is truly here, back from the dead, then all that He has said about Himself and everything He has claimed to be is true. We see the Spirit at work, always leading to the truth. This is the Church’s foundation.
The Lord comes among us here today as a community of believers, and whether we come with our fears, sorrows, guilt, or hurts, or whether we come seeking to be filled with faith and truth and peace, Jesus breathes His Spirit upon us, filling us with His life. He invites us through this intimate encounter(as He did with Thomas, “Give me your hand, put it into my side.”) to the experience of His Church(His body), to receive the unique gifts He has for each of us and, not to hold on to them for ourselves, to share those gifts with others!