|Liturgical Version (UK & Ireland, John 20:19-31)||Berean Litteral Bible (John 20:19-31)||NIV (John 20:19-31)|
|“19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, 20 and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, 21 and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ 22 After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’ 24 Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ 26 Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. 27 Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ 28 Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ 30 There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. 31 These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have Life through his name.”||“19 Therefore it being evening the same day, the first of the week, and the doors where the disciples were having been shut through the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and He says to them, “Peace to you.” 20 And having said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. Then the disciples rejoiced, having seen the Lord. 21 Therefore Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent Me forth, I also send you.” 22 And having said this, He breathed on them and He says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you might forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you might retain any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hands into His side, I will never believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them, the doors having been shut. Jesus comes, and He stood in the midst and said, “Peace to you.” 27 Then He says to Thomas, “Bring your finger here, and see My hands; and bring your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus says to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those not having seen, yet having believed.” 30 So indeed Jesus also did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have Life in His name.||“19 It was the first day of the week, and that very evening, while the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you!” He said to them. 20 After He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. 21 Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.” 22 When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” 24 Now Thomas called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails have been, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, His disciples were once again inside with the doors locked, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have Life in His name.” (John 20:19-31)|
The message of the Apostles to us today is: “we have seen the Risen Lord”. Do we believe them? Do we believe their account? We could say that it is a lie! That it is a group hallucination! That this is their most pious wishes, and a perfect projection of their dream: they have seen what they dreamt of. Are we supposed to believe them when we read that they say to us: “we have seen the Risen Lord”?
– For them what exactly is it “to believe”?
– How can we believe? In other words, what is the inner mechanism of the act of faith according to them, according to St. John’s account?
– What are the fruits of this act of faith?
“Doubt no longer but believe”
The fact that Thomas succumbed to the temptation of not believing what his companions told him, paradoxically is a lesson for us also which is supposed to help us in our act of faith. The fact that he refused to believe, the fact that he resisted the truth the apostles gave him (“we have seen the Risen Lord”), is a great source of help for our faith.
In order to believe in the Apostles’ Good News, which is that they have seen the Risen Lord, we too would first like to see the Risen Lord. We would like to be sure that it is He and not an illusion or somebody else: we would want to see the glorious wounds in his hands and touch the glorious wound in his side. We, too, struggle with our faith.
The entire Gospel of St. John, in fact, is built in order to help us believe, i.e., to make a pure act of faith which would allow us to reach the depths of Jesus. But the paradox is that the act of faith for St. John presupposes an act of seeing. Not seeing the divinity, but seeing a sign, something that Jesus performs within a teaching that accompanies it. According to the Gospel of St. John’s teaching, it is by seeing a sign that we can make an act of faith. By one act of faith following another, our faith is being purified to the point of allowing us, paradoxically, to see God’s Glory manifested on the Cross.
As John narrates the life of Jesus of Nazareth, “son of Mary and Joseph”, when we see the deeds and hear the teaching of Jesus, faith allows us to have access to the divinity of Jesus, to his glory; access to his own divinity through the open wound in his side and to be touched by it, so that we can say with Thomas: “My Lord and My God.” (John 20:28)
Therefore, the reproach Jesus addresses to Thomas (that it is because he sees him he beleives) is not about wanting to “see” Jesus’ signs! The reproach is about wanting first to see the Risen Lord rather than wanting first to make the Act of Faith. The paradox is that St. John wants us to lean on the six signs he recounts in his Gospel, and leaning on the signs, by the grace of God, to enter more deeply within Jesus and be reached by the manifestation of his Divinity. The Act of Faith according to St. John needs the sign, requires on our part that we “see” the sign – but it does not stop at the sign, it goes deeper into Jesus, to discover a new “layer” within Him. With Act of Faith after Act of faith, we go deeper and deeper into Jesus until we finally reach his divinity and, being absorbed by it, we can then say: “My Lord and My God”.
Thus, when Jesus says: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, He really means: search for the Signs Jesus performed, see each sign, contemplate the sign and go deeper into it by believing in Jesus, i.e. go deeper than the outer layer of the sign, and discover Jesus’ Divinity.
Seeing a sign given by Jesus in the Gospel of St. John, seeing Jesus of Nazareth himself, i.e. the human nature of Jesus, is not the “seeing” for which Thomas is being reproached by Jesus. What Jesus requires for the Act of Faith is a different type of “seeing.” Once the Act of Faith is made, we are introduced to a deeper layer in Jesus, and this is a new experience. The Act of Faith, leaning on a seen sign, leads to an experience. By contrast an ancient saying affirms: “crede ut intelligas”, namely, that to believe in Jesus bears as a fruit a new contemplative loving knowledge of Him.
By the pure Act of Faith, by accessing his divinity, we receive Divine Life, He communicates His Divine Life to us. Our deepest thirst is finally quenched. We see God in Jesus.
The Fruits of Believing: “I am sending you”
Give the Holy Spirit to Your Brothers
When Jesus appears to the Apostles, He sends them to prolong nothing less than his own mission. In fact He says these powerful words: ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ (John 20:21) establishing a type of equality between Him and his apostles. “16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one having sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:16-17, see John 15:20) The thought is more developed in St. Luke:“A disciple is not above the teacher, and everyone fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40, see Mt 10:24)
It is from the standpoint of his experiencing Jesus’ Divinity that the Apostle can be sent by God! One has first to reach God in Jesus in order to be sent by God. One has to ascend to the Divinity and then descend from it.
When the Apostle is able to access Jesus’ Divinity, his formation as a true apostle is considered complete and from this “height” he can be sent by God to his brothers. With his purified Act of Faith he can now reach the depths of Jesus, reach his divinity, receive Jesus’ Breath, i.e. receive from Him the Holy Spirit (“he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”) and “descends” to give it to his brothers and sisters, exactly as the Servants in Cana of Galilea will have implicitly done (see John 2:1-11): they went to the jars, i.e. Jesus’ Divinity, drew from them, and gave to the guests.
“6 Now there were six stone water jars standing there, according to the purification of the Jews, having space for two or three metretae. 7 Jesus says to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He says to them, “Now draw some out and carry it to the master of the feast.” And they carried it. 9And when the master of the feast had tasted the water having become wine, and did not know from where it is—but the servants having drawn the water knew…” (John 2:6-9)
This is how Jesus’ early Prophecy in the Gospel of St. John is accomplished. Talking about the Apostles, the heads of the churches, the Messengers, the Angels (Heads) of the churches (see Rev 1:20 and following) Jesus says to Nathanael in the end of Chapter One: “Truly, truly, I say to all of you, you will see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)
If one realises the journey of growth embodied in the Gospel of St. John, going from one sign to the other, going from one pure act of faith to another even purer, one reaches finally the height of the Divinity of Jesus, accessible through his open side-wound: “34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water came out immediately. 35 And the one having seen has borne witness, and his testimony is true. And He knows that he is speaking truth, so that you also might believe.” (John 19:34-35)
Jesus’ prophecy in John 1:51 (see above), then, comes across as if He were saying o each one of us, his disciples: Truly truly, I say to you, that after having had your Act of Faith purified, you will be capable of contemplating “the” sign, i.e. me on the Cross, i.e. God the Father manifesting His Glory in me and through me. You will see the open wound in my side, and the Glory of God issuing forth from it; you will be introduced into my divinity, through my side (as Eve was taken from my Side (Genesis 2), you will return to your origins and dwell in my divinity); you will see the true heaven opened up; you will contemplate my divinity (“My Lord and My God”) and you will receive Life Divine flowing from it, and draw from it and come down and serve your brothers with this Divine Water turned into the Wine of the New Covenant.
You will be my true disciple.
This is the inner meaning of what St. John’s seems to be saying to us in his Gospel.
“eight days after” (John 20:26)
In the early generations, “eight days after” alluded to the weekly celebration of Sunday where Christians would gather to meet the Risen Lord. In this sense this passage of the Gospel is an invitation to deepen our understanding of the Sunday Gathering, i.e. Mass and Catechesis. It is about the gathering of the believers, the Faithful, every week to meet and see the Risen Lord. He comes and speak to us, He the Risen Lord. He gives us the Eucharist, all that comes from his side! We become Flesh of His Flesh and bone from his bones, we become the Church, His Bride. He then sends us to convey Him to the World: “the Mass is ended go…”.
After receiving Communion, in the Byzantine Rite they sing: “we have seen the True Light”. Aren’t we also believers? Yes. We went for Communion to receive the flesh and the blood of the Risen Lord. We have received his Divinity also, of course, and therefore the Father overshadowed us (see the relationship between Transfiguration and the Mass also (Second title in the link)) and took us, introduced us more deeply into his Son: our spirit, our heart, were able then to see his divinity. “We have seen the True Light”, i.e. Jesus, Light from Light, true God from true God. Aren’t we renewing Thomas’ experience every Sunday? Aren’t we saying: Amen, this is truly His Body taken from Our Lady, and our heart truly sees his Divinity?
May the Lord be glorified. Amen. Amen.
Second Sunday of Easter 2022