One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Gospel Reading personally.
A great way of doing this is using the “Lectio Divina”; this is a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
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.
Doubt is a precious ointment. It heals the wounds of the sufferer. (Krishamurti)
When we feel betrayed, it’s difficult to trust again. Once we discover that someone has deceived us we will forever fear that they will do it again. Like a flower unwilling to blossom again, we close up on ourselves in our bitterness. We become flowers that no longer share their perfume for fear that the cold wind will once again steal our colors.
The disciples in John’s Gospel today also feel deceived: they hoped for a different outcome. They didn’t turn out as they expected. Though they all could be considered traitors, today they feel betrayed. They are afraid to commit to anything again. There are signs of life and yet they say nothing. The tomb is empty, but it is they who have closed themselves in.
Sometimes our lives seem to be exactly the opposite of what they should be: the Upper Room has become a tomb. A tomb is a place of death, and yet it is open and empty. The Upper Room is the place where Jesus gave us his body and his blood; it is a place of life and yet now it is closed and filled with fear. A place of life has become one of death and fear while a place of death has become a sign of life and of Resurrection. And what about our lives; are they what they ought to be or the opposite?
Sometimes our own hearts, while being places of life where we have experienced the presence of God, close their doors and become places of darkness. The Upper Room is much like our own discouraged hearts that are afraid to love once again, hearts closed in distrust and suspicion.
And yet even a heart with its doors closed tight is not abandoned by Christ; he passes right through all our fears. Jesus shows himself as he is; he hides nothing from us, bearing his wounds openly. These tell his story. Jesus does not remove them but rather invites us to open ourselves despite the wounds that mark our lives.
Sometimes we are ashamed of our wounds and wish to hide them. Other times, like Thomas, we find a certain pleasure in reopening old ones. It can be so hard for us to move on, as if we want to relive the pain over and over again. When one remains closed up inside, we inevitably focus all our attention on our own wounds since there is nothing else to look at. If we don’t open the doors of the Upper Room, the peace that Jesus brings is left sterile because we do not allow it to be transformed into forgiveness.
To forgive is to let go. The disciples will be unable to forgive until they have the courage to open the doors. When your heart is closed there can be no forgiveness, but only anger and frustration.
Like Thomas, perhaps we too live great moments of courage that push us out of ourselves, but then, sometimes even more disappointed, we return to hide behind the closed doors of our own Upper Room. In fact Thomas is called Didymus, which means “double”. He is our double, our twin. We are the same in our desire to believe which, however, is often suffocated by our incredulity. Like Thomas, in our hearts faith and doubt face off continually in an exhausting duel.
Thomas is also “double” because he is a little outside of the community and a little inside; he believes a little and he doubts a little. Thomas is double and ambiguous like we are, as we battle continually against the distrust in our hearts.
On the other hand, how can we expect Thomas to believe the words of the other disciples who claim to have seen the Lord and yet they too remain closed in by fear? The community of the Upper Room, like today’s communities, do not help doubting Thomas to overcome his doubt: despite the fact that Jesus visited them, eight days later the Upper Room still has its doors closed.
If the Lord has truly passed through the closed doors of your heart and has given you peace, why are you still afraid to open them? This Gospel should question us about our testimony. We cannot claim that we have met Jesus if our lives do not show the indelible signs of this encounter. We must be careful not to be those responsible for the doubt in so many men and women who seek untiringly the traces of the Risen One in us.
Perhaps it would be better to accept the doubts that hide in us, our incredulity, our kinship with Thomas, so as not to frighten ourselves if we find that we live our spiritual lives imperfectly, sometimes believing and sometimes doubting. The good news is that even when the doors of our hearts are closed, Jesus comes to visit us all the same.
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