by Fr. Tommy Lane
The apostles must have been suffering from a severe dose of depression since Good Friday. Their teacher and friend Jesus, whom they believed to be the Messiah, was dead, betrayed to the chief priests by one of their own, Judas, presumably because he thought that by putting Jesus into a corner Jesus would have to act to drive out the Roman occupiers of Palestine. Then this same Judas took his life. The crowd which welcomed Jesus with palms turned against Jesus on Good Friday morning calling for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. The apostles, now afraid of the crowd, had shut themselves in for their own protection. Cutting themselves off from the community and going into themselves is a sign that they were suffering mental pain. There were ten of them gathered in this state; Judas was no more and Thomas was temporarily absent. Gathered in fear we see that the words of Jesus during the Last Supper (Luke 22:31-32) are fulfilled, “Satan has got his wish to sift you all like wheat.”
Into this situation of pain and being sifted like wheat by Satan, Jesus came with his healing, “Peace be with you” as we heard in today’s Gospel. (John 20:19-31) How much peace they must have felt within now, combined with shock and doubts. This meeting with the risen Jesus certainly brought peace to their troubled minds and hearts. Sometimes when people are suffering and carrying heavy crosses, people feel they must give comfort but don’t know what to say and unfortunately as a result they say silly things that only increase the pain. So when offering help to those who suffer we need to think before we speak and not say the first thing that comes to mind. As someone has said, “Before engaging mouth, please ensure that brain is engaged.” When Jesus came to the ten apostles he did not offer shallow sympathy but instead he healed them of their pain and doubts and depression, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) Jesus too like the apostles had been sifted like wheat by Satan during the agony in Gethsemane when he prayed that the chalice of his passion would pass him by. But Jesus recovered from the sifting and now came to strengthen the apostles. Yet his suffering had left its marks, he showed them his hands and his side. In this apparition Jesus is a wounded healer.
The ten apostles were blessed because they had to wait only from Thursday evening to Sunday evening to have their pain and doubts healed. Thomas had to wait a week longer until he met Jesus the wounded healer. We don’t receive visions of Jesus the wounded healer when we are being sifted like wheat by Satan, and we have to wait longer than a weekend or a week to have our pain or doubts healed. There are times when we too like Thomas would like to put our finger into Jesus’ hands and put our hand into Jesus’ side to reassure ourselves. Some people bear crosses all their lives. They are heroic. Those who bear heavy crosses, and there are many, and who don’t see Jesus, have the faith that Jesus spoke of when he said,
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
This is the faith that Peter wrote of in our second reading,
“Through your faith God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you even through you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold - only it is more precious than gold…and then you will have praise and glory and honor.” (1 Pet 1:5-7)
Although we don’t receive a vision of Jesus to heal us in times of anguish God does send us comforts when we are being sifted like wheat by Satan. How many times we have heard someone say, “If it wasn’t for so-and-so I would never have survived during that time.” We all know of people who are sensitive and kind and caring and they bring peace to others in need just as Jesus brought peace to his anguished apostles. Thanks be to God for his gift to us of people who bring peace. Because of them we can say, “My Lord and my God” even when times are tough. (John 20:28) During the Easter Vigil I said that the apostles being asked to return to Galilee to meet the risen Jesus is like us meeting the risen Jesus in our ordinary everyday lives. One of the ways in which we meet the risen Jesus is through the kindness of others who care enough to help, and who engage their brain before they engage their mouth so that what they say is wise.
As we reflect this weekend on the risen Jesus bringing peace to his anguished apostles after his resurrection and bringing peace to us through kind people, we cannot but be conscious of the terrible suffering in the Balkans at this time (1999) and how that region is being sifted like wheat by Satan. Let us pray that the peace of Jesus will touch that troubled region and bring healing and forgiveness so that a time will come when they too will be able to say “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
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