Jesus Invites Us To Believe | Season of Joy

Season of Joy

Today's Season of Joy reflection on John 20:19-31 is by Fr. James Martin, SJ.

Fr. James is a Jesuit priest, writer, and editor-at-large for the Jesuit magazine, America. In 2017 Pope Francis appointed him as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications. A New York Times Best Selling author, he is a sought after public speaker and media commentator on faith, culture, and spirituality.

Jesus Invites Us To Believe

John 20:19-31 (excerpt)

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.”

To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042422.cfm

In today's beautiful gospel, we read the story of the Apostle known as "Doubting Thomas."

Now, I've always thought that Saint Thomas gets a rather bad rap. After all, he was one of the most faithful of Jesus' disciples. You'll remember that in the story of the raising of Lazarus, in the Gospel of John, some of the disciples were worried about returning to Bethany, Lazarus's home, because it was in Judea where things were dangerous for Jesus.

Jesus had just been threatened with a stoning, but Thomas was undeterred, and encouraged everyone to go with Jesus. Beyond that, Jesus had chosen Thomas as an Apostle—one of the 12—so must have seen something good in him.

But because Thomas was not with the other disciples, at one of the original appearances of the Risen Christ, he doubted the resurrection. He says that unless he himself puts his hands in the wounds of Jesus he won't believe. Now, let's step back a bit. The beginning of the Gospel of John tells us that the disciples were locked behind closed doors out of fear.

But a closer look at the gospel shows us that Mary Magdalene had already had her encounter with the Risen Christ at the tomb on Easter Sunday and had already proclaimed the good news of the Resurrection to the disciples. In other words, they were still cowering behind closed doors after they had heard about the resurrection. So let's remember that everyone was struggling and was a little fearful and a little doubtful after the resurrection; it may simply have been human nature. But let's get back to Thomas.

On the one hand, Thomas should have known that nothing was impossible with God. On the other hand, no one had ever been raised from the dead in that precise way before—even Lazarus—and so Thomas can be forgiven his doubt.

But like the other disciples, Thomas had seen many miracles including ones where Jesus raised someone from the dead. Lazarus isn't the only one. There is also the son of the Widow of Nain and Jairus's daughter. It's a reminder to all of us that nothing is impossible with God. Even if Thomas and the disciples had a hard time getting that, we know it to be true. So the call of the Christian is not to hide behind closed doors.

It is to both hope and expect that God will be with us in all things. And that again, nothing is impossible with God. But Jesus knows that the disciples need more than just the report from Mary Magdalene. So as today's Gospel tells us, he appears despite the locked doors and gives them what they need: Peace.

Now Thomas, as we've said, is not there. And when the Risen Christ appears again, he knows now what Thomas needs and he shows him his wounds. God speaks to us in very personal ways, tailored to our own circumstances. Jesus gave Thomas just what he needed and asked for: physical proof.

For Mary Magdalene, he gave her the experience at the tomb of hearing her name called. For the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Risen Christ explained things to them so that they would understand. For Peter—on the shore of the Sea of Galilee—he gives him forgiveness, asking him three times: "Do you love me?" to counterbalance Peter's threefold denial of Jesus.

This is something I see about God, especially in my work as a spiritual director. God meets people where they are. For some people, God meets them through relationships; with others through books; with others through nature.

For the past few years I've led pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and at the end of every day we do some faith sharing—sitting in a big group, sharing things that were meaningful that happened in the day. And I'm always amazed at how different the experiences are. One person will say, 'Oh, I saw the sun rise on the Sea of Galilee and it moved me to tears.'

And someone else will say, 'Oh, I saw that too, it didn't do much for me.' Another person will say, 'Did you see that beautiful mosaic in The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth? It was so moving.' Another will say, 'Yeah, I didn't like that church at all, too much concrete.

One will say, did you hear that? Hymn we sang today by the Sea of Galilee? 'Lord, you came to the seashore. I couldn't believe we were singing it right there.' And another person will say, 'Yeah, I don't like that song too much. We sing it too much in our Parish.'

God speaks to people in very unique ways, tailored to where they are. Maybe this week you can look around to see the very personal and unique ways that God encounters you, and invites you to believe, just as Thomas did.

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