Today’s gospel story is one of the most “awesome” and hope-filled incidents in the entire gospel (John 20:19-31)! Just think about the all-important context for a moment: the disciples are scared, behind locked doors. They all remember. Jesus had been betrayed by one of the twelve apostles, Judas. He had been rejected by the religious leaders who should have been able to recognise that Jesus the Messiah, the fulfilment of the covenant promises to Israel.
His closest group of friends deserted him in his final hours. The most prominent member of that group, Peter, even denied knowing him. He had been condemned by the civil authority, even though Pontius Pilate had announced the innocence of Jesus. Then he was tortured and killed in the most agonising way known to first century dictators, by crucifixion. Events like those, in the language of the Hebrew scriptures, would seem to call for the “traditional” revenge by the blood clan – or in the case of Jesus, the Son of God, through a justified rain of fire and brimstone. So perhaps those disciples were afraid of more than just persecution from the religious leaders. Did they not deserve to be “zapped” by lightning?
Instead, what do we witness (in today’s gospel story) after the glorious Resurrection of Jesus? He returns to his closest friends, in itself a sign of mercy, and brings them the gift of peace. He forgives them, and empowers them to forgive others. He gives them the Holy Spirit, the very life of Christ himself – and commissions them to continue his work! He is especially patient with Thomas, who insisted on “evidence.” And he unreservedly gives each one of us the gift of Faith to believe in his Resurrection and his Sonship, without seeing him at all!
That context and story speaks volumes about the mind-boggling Divine Mercy of our loving God, who is always faithful to his promises! All we can do is bow our heads in awe, beg forgiveness for our sins, and trust in his promised mercy. He is faithful to his promises!
The gospels are written by those who were first to have faith, so that we, too, may believe that Jesus is the Christ. Action follows belief! Remember Jesus said: be merciful, and love others as he loved us. That is why we ask the Holy Spirit to kindle in us the fire of divine love!