The force of life

Divine Mercy Sunday
April 24, 2022

In today’s Gospel Jesus breathes on his disciples, and in that holy breath they each receive the Holy Spirit. Considering what we have been through in the last two years, the idea of breathing on people inside a locked room is more than a little unsettling. But keep in mind that one’s breath contains much more than potential germs and viruses. One’s breath contains the very force of life. God blew the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. So too in an emergency can we breathe life back into a person who has stopped breathing. We can imagine the disciples holding their collective breath in the days after Jesus’ burial. He was no longer in the tomb. Mary Magdalene said she had seen him. But how could this be? What could have happened? Then he stood before them, wounds and all. Realizing he was alive, they let out their breath in relief and rejoiced. Then when he breathed on them, they received new life, new life in the Spirit. In his parable of the lost sheep, Jesus tells of a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep behind in order to find the single sheep who went astray. After finding it, rescuing it, and bringing it home, he rejoices for the sake of this one who was lost and is now found. Fast forward to today’s Gospel. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death and resurrection, a single disciple was missing: Thomas. John doesn’t specifically mention that Jesus noticed, but undoubtedly he realized his absence. And so the following week the Good Shepherd returns, intent on finding Thomas, whose doubts had led him astray, to restore him to the fold. And Thomas, perhaps realizing that the Lord had returned just for him, just to relieve his doubts, just to convince him “do not be unbelieving, but believe,” makes the most definitive confession possible: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27–28). The community of believers is the body of Christ. So in a sense when Jesus invites us to put our hands in his wounds, he is asking us to probe the wounds of the community. We are asked to make our wounded brothers and sisters whole, as Christ’s wounded body was made whole. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)

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