“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’”
It was perhaps only natural that John’s Gospel should highlight the joy that accompanied this first encounter between the Risen Lord and his apostles. Their joy, however, was something more than the spontaneous relief of a reunion with one thought to be dead. The joy that they experienced was rooted in the prayer offered by Jesus on the night before he died.
“I have made your name known to them, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.”
This was no passing joy. It was the enduring realisation that the Resurrection imparts to every believer. Christ is Risen! The power of his Resurrection gathers our loneliness into communion with the Father and Son, a love that existed before the foundation of the world. This is the ultimate joy of the Resurrection, to know that Christ abides in us as he abides in the Father.
As the encounter continued, Christ, like the Father at the dawn of creation, breathed new life into his Apostles. “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This was a Spirit that looked outwards rather then inwards. “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” Whatever our calling in life, our lives are to be lived as a proclamation of the Christ who dwells within us. The first fruits of this Spirit are always peace and reconciliation. “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” In the case of the Apostles these words clearly carried a sacramental meaning. It would be in the name of Christ that they would proclaim absolution to burdened souls. We should not ignore the significance of these words for ourselves. We also have received the Spirit of the Risen Lord, making us, with the Apostles, channels of his peace and reconciliation.
Thomas, who refused to believe unless he could see the wounds left by the Crucifixion, could place his hand into Christ’s wounded side, represents faith’s dilemma. We want to believe, but all too frequently we want to believe on our own terms. We want to remain in control of any commitment that we might make. Faith, of its very nature, is based on a trust that surrenders itself to the object of its trust.
We do not make a contract with God so as to remain in control. We surrender ourselves and our fears to him. We allow him in truth, not merely in name, to be the Lord of our lives. It was for this reason that the exchange with Thomas concluded with the words: “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
The Acts of the Apostles describes the power of the Risen Lord at work in the community. We are told that the whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to prayer and the breaking of bread. We deceive ourselves if we claim to be alive in the Risen Lord without all three.
Only when we are one with Christ in prayer, in his teaching and the celebration of the Eucharist are we truly one with our Risen Lord.