A reading from the Gospel of Saint John (Jn 20:19-31)
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.
The image of the closed doors of the place where the Apostles were, it is not a simple logistic or space detail, but recalls something deeper, inviting us to reflect on the heart’s closures that often could be also in us. The time of uncertainty, trials, disappointed hopes, fears, like for the disciples after the Master’s “departure”, could lead to moments of despair and blockage. Only the encounter with the risen and victorious Christ, the One who can penetrate also the spiritual and physical closed doors, could bring a renewed joy in us. Seeking this joy, that every person would have, often it’s a hard way, because without seeking the Lord’s face, one couldn’t find their fullfillment. Although we can fill our days with many things, occupations, meetings, there is always the risk of feeling the weight of emptiness and the frustration of an unfulfilled desire. With the irruption of this Easter light in us, which manifests itself with peace of heart, sense of completeness, love and hope, that “contagious” movement is created in us, leading us to get out of ourselves, to open ourselves to others, with the desire that they can have our same experience. It seems to be like what happened to the first disciples, who attracted by the luminous presence of Christ, want to know where he lives, to enter his life and stay with him. Jesus’ response, with that “come and see” (Jn 1:39) should be the program of our Christian witness! Entering the continuity of Easter joy visible in us, other men and women should feel the desire to come and see! This rebirth of joy, then, passes through two other gifts that the Risen One gives to his Church: the Holy Spirit, “the finger of the hand of God” (from the Hymn Veni Creator), with which He continues to touch us and recreate us and the other one, that is the forgiveness of sins. The Sunday of the Easter Octave, for some years, with a decision of St. John Paul II, has been dedicated to Divine Mercy. These three elements: the Easter faith, of which Thomas is the emblem, the Spirit, poured out on the Apostles by the Risen One and the forgiveness of sins, which the Apostles will have to offer to all peoples, are intertwined on this Sunday, like tesserae of a luminous mosaic. By unhinging the closures of our hearts, what does Jesus do, if not recreate us, renew ourselves internally through the miracle of his limitless forgiveness? Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini reminds us: “The theme of mercy […] is a key theme of the Church. The Church must make us feel neither overpowered, nor organizational capacity, nor economic capacity, but mercy. It is clear that this mercy is not inexpensive. It is a mercy that truly renews and rehabilitates us, a mercy that recreates us internally” (C. M. Martini, The wings of freedom. Man in search and the choice of faith, 2009). However, to allow ourselves to be recreated by this limitless Mercy, we must first of all feel its need, humbly and honestly recognizing our fragility, our mistakes and our sin. Then, we must desire this spiritual rebirth with all strength, accepting Paul’s invitation to the Corinthians: “We beg you in the name of Christ: let yourself be reconciled with God” (2 Cor 5:20)!
Fr. Luciano Labanca