Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).
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.
These poor disciples! How emotional the week had been for them! We try to recreate Holy Week and Easter Sunday, but it is impossible for me to truly imagine what it must have been like to be there. We try to empathize with their lack of understanding, but knowing the entire story, I cannot help but wonder why they didn't "get it."
This week's Gospel begins the evening of Easter Sunday. The disciples are truly afraid, hiding in a locked room, when Jesus appears. On Divine Mercy Sunday, this Gospel resonates with my fears of sin, failure, and suffering. Sometimes I lock my mind away, hiding from my own emotions, forgetting the promises of Christ. For He promises peace, forgiveness, and freedom from fear if we only rely on His Divine Mercy. Jesus, I trust in you!
As Jesus releases the disciples from their fears, He then ordains them His holy priests. In that upper room, He gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit to aid them in their ministry. To diverge for a moment, when I used to do Confirmation retreats for youth, we did a demonstration with a glass of chocolate milk that was very popular. It went something like this...
(place empty glass on a table, visible to all)
Before Baptism, your soul, like this glass, is empty, and then it is made pure and clean by immersion in holy water at Baptism.
(pour in the milk).
At that time, you are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the anointing with Holy Chrism, these being wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
(pour in the chocolate syrup)
Most young children are not mature enough to need the gifts of the Spirit active in their lives except in cases of stress or tragedy, when life gets shaken a bit.
(shake the glass a bit to make the chocolate sauce mix in just a bit)
But, most young lives are pure and simple without too much fuss.
(let chocolate sauce settle again)
It is in Confirmation that you are given the tool and the responsibility to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life.
(drop the spoon in the glass and turn away)
Congratulations. What a wonderful day it will be!
(pause for a while or start something else, until the youth ask you to stir the chocolate sauce into the milk)
Ah! This is your choice. You will be given the tool and the responsibility at Confirmation, but your life will not be fully complete or as sweet as it could be unless you stir the spoon to mix the gifts of the Spirit throughout your life. You choose to use it or not; it will always be there for you.
(drink the milk, perhaps serve chocolate milk or pass out spoons as tokens --- one priest went so far as to have some spoons engraved and distributed them at the end of their Confirmation Mass)
I shared that, because I strongly feel it is a priest's responsibility to lead us away from our fears towards faith in Jesus Christ, but each of them has to make that choice, and that is why they need our constant prayers. Especially in today's world, where it is difficult to believe and hope in God, just like Thomas, we need strong leaders, like those first priests, to help us to believe. Pray for them! Sacrifice for them! Help them!
We absolutely must help them by being "those who have not seen and have believed." By accepting what the Catholic Church teaches us through Her holy priests, we are helping our leaders. By living out our vocations as wives and mothers, we are inspiring them to holiness. (I know this, because many priests have told me that this is how it works.) By modeling lives of holiness and enjoying the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we make their jobs easier!
John sums up his entire Gospel passage by saying that these few are merely examples of the amazing things Jesus did during his forty days of Resurrection and that these examples are specifically given for us to have faith --- for us to have faith in our priests, for us to have faith when we cannot see like Thomas, for us to have faith "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name."
Jesus, your Divine Mercy covers all our sins, fears, failings, and sufferings. May we know to turn to you and trust in you and not lock ourselves away. Bless our priests, dear Jesus. They need your mercy more than anyone. Help us to remember to pray and sacrifice for them to fully access the gifts of your Holy Spirit. Teach us how to stir the spoon of your grace in our lives, so your gifts will permeate every aspect of our daily duties, trials, and blessings!