Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, May 1, 2011, Appearance to the Disciples, Fr. Frank Herrmann, SJ


Appearance of the Lord to Disciples and Thomas, Jn. 20.

St. Mary's of the Angels, April 2011

1. At the crucifixion, the disciples had abandoned Jesus. What was in their hearts, then, as they huddled together in the room on this first day of the week without knowing yet of the Resurrection?

fear--for their own safety against the temple authorities and the Romans

bitter disappointment--They thought he would bring a kingdom of some sort, but he did not; the hands that were extended to others in healing were nailed to a cross. They thought he would heal the world's wounds, but he died of his own wounds. He said, "Into your hands I commend my spirit," but his spirit appeared to have been extinguished.

shame--at their own cowardice. The very ones who had been eager to sit at his right hand and his left in that hoped for kingdom, had run away--had even denied they knew him. One ran away naked; Peter denied him three times.

guilt--They had abandoned a friend at the hour of his greatest need for them. In Mark's gospel, not one of them is present at the cross.

purposelessness--what future could there be now? they had crumbled; their hopes, their whole world had crumbled. They had left everything for him and now they had nothing. When he said, "Follow me," they had dropped their nets and followed. And now it had come to this: fearfully huddling without him and without any reason left, even, to be together.

In a word, their hearts were utterly defeated. They had no hope.

This is a situation that the modern world understands. We have all tasted something of these things in our own lives.

2. Then, suddenly, into their midst walks Jesus and all is changed in an instant.

He lives; no longer does he say "Fear not," but only "Peace." (repeatedly).

That is the effect of him; he creates peace.

He breathes forth his spirit upon them; his spirit enters into the heart of each one of them. And their worlds, that three days ago seemed to have fallen apart irrevocably and forever, are in the instant of his appearing among them re-created. The world has been made anew. Out of the darkness and chaos of their hearts, He has made light, just as the Father did on the first day of creation.

Without a word of recrimination or glancing back, He has given them peace and forgiveness. "See I have made all things new."

Now, for the first time really, they understand Him, as much as one can understand mystery. This living, healed Christ has begun a kingdom that is greater than death; stronger than human weakness and sin; capable of healing the world, even when the world seems to have fallen apart. He brings a kingdom in which love is not defeated.

3. And what was in Thomas's heart? Doubt. It is too good to be true, this coming back to life.

But, then, he touches Jesus' side and hands; wounded but resurrected. And he sees it is all true. Everything is restored; the same Lord and yet not the same; the same world of a moment before, yet forever changed because of this resurrected person.

Instantly, a future is restored for Thomas and these disciples; their hopes in him are fulfilled beyond their greatest expectations. Not in a way they ever expected but in a different and greater way. They see that the kingdom that has begun in him is not one of political power where they can lord it over others; but a much better kingdom of self-sacrificing love and forgiveness. A joyful mission is given them to announce that God has revealed his love to the world.

I wonder if in his future, while Thomas gave himself to that mission (India?), he thought often of those hands he touched on that day in that room. There are so many times God's hands are mentioned in the Bible. Each time Thomas later prayed those passages about God’s hands, he must have been reminded of moment he placed his hands in the Resurrected Lord's hands and exclaimed "My Lord and my God." When he prayed Ps. 63:7-8: "Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your hand upholds me." Or, in Is. 41:13: "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" Or, in another place (Is. 48:13): "My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together." Or, most of all, Ps. 31, the very psalm Jesus may well have been praying as he died on the cross, "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."

Thomas, having seen and touched the resurrected hand of the Lord, could well entrust his life, his past, his present and his future, into those healed, healing, life-giving, forgiving, re-creating hands. And so can we, who have not seen but have believed.



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