During the days immediately preceding his death on the Cross, Jesus promised a Spirit of understanding to his disciples, a Spirit that would enable them to understand his continuing presence among them.
St John’s Gospel describes the fulfilment of this promise at the first appearance of the Risen Lord to his disciples. Here loss and fear became an abiding peace, a peace that the world could not give. “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”
We remember this year that Christ is indeed the face of the Father’s mercy, for it is in him, and in the power of his Resurrection, that we find peace, healing and forgiveness. “After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.’”
Without the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection is no more than a record of the distant past. Through the Holy Spirit we are brought to life in Christ, alive with a Spirit that cannot rest until it has brought a broken world to the Father.
Jesus described himself as sent by a Father who so loved the world that he gave his only Son. He came as the herald of forgiveness rather than judgment. According to this narrative, the first fruit of the Resurrection would be the forgiveness demonstrated in the lives of his disciples. Mercy and forgiveness, rather than judgment and condemnation, proclaim Christ’s Resurrection to the world.
The narrative of this first encounter with the Risen Lord was followed by the doubt of Thomas. “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hands into his side, I refuse to believe.”
The doubts of Thomas represent the darkness that every believer must encounter. We struggle to find the Risen Lord in the continuing violence that visits our cities. We struggle to find Christ in the tragedies of daily life.
Could it be that in these moments of darkness, our Risen Lord is, in some sense, inviting us to put our hand into his wounded side? Could it be that, in our own pain, he invites us to share his compassion for a sinful world? Could it be that when we feel most abandoned, he says to us: “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last. I was dead and now I am to live forever.”
This article first appeared in the April 1 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To download the entire issue for free with our new app, go here