There is little doubt in my mind that this week’s OLD TESTAMENT READING [EXODUS 22: 21 - 27] obviously continues the thrust of last week’s basic challenge of whose image,...
If we take into account that the
RESPONSORIAL PSALM creates a bridge between the first reading and the Gospel then we should notice that the Lord’s mercy of which THE PSALM [118 or 117] speaks is essentially linked to healing and peace. The Psalm proclaims
“Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: his mercy endures forever. …
(he) has given us light.”
We should not put ourselves into the straitjacket which confines his mercy to the forgiveness of sin.
Healing, in scriptural (both Old and New Testaments) terms goes much, much, further. Neither should it ever be confined to ‘the soul’ – it must be extended to the
WHOLE PERSON (spiritual, physical, emotional and mental). If you doubt this, then take a prayerful look at the Beatitudes as recorded in Matthew’s account of the Gospel (Chapter 5).
In TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [JOHN 20: 19 — 31] we are presented with an essential aspect of the Lord’s healing. Do not bluff yourselves that Thomas was the only ‘doubter’ … he was the ‘fall guy’ who took the rap for others! His appearance among the fearful, disturbed, hesitant, and doubting disciples brought healing to the situation. This was the result of his PRESENCE, his greeting of peace, and his sending them out as his witnesses. However, do not overlook the fact that this healing appearance included the clear reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Peace be withyou. As the after has sent me even so I send you … receive the Holy Spirit.”
Indeed, the forgiveness of sins will be an essential part their ministry. However, our own experience of sin and forgiveness should clearly indicate that this is only the first (though vital) step to complete, life-giving, healing. We have to accept the forgiveness, and allow it to empower us for future action. We cannot be effective, contented, witnesses unless we are WHOLE and at PEACE!
Last week reference was made to the encounter between the risen Lord and Thomas – and how this must influence our personal faith and discipleship. However, this week’s record of the Gospel adds a powerful emphasis to what was said. At the very end of the extract the following appears: ” … these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
What is written? The Scriptures! Recall last week’s Gospel reading which told us that “as yet they did not know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” We have not seen Jesus Christ but we have ‘seen’ the Scriptures. The question is: have we heard and believed them? In the absence of this hearing and believing we cannot (not, will not) “have life in his name,” and neither can we have the peaceful wholeness that comes through his forgiveness and healing. A lack of this wholeness impoverishes any witness we give.
John’s presentation of the Gospel told us that what he wrote was written so that we may believe! Now, take a
look at THIS SUNDAY’S SECOND READING [REVELATION 1: 9 – 11a. 12 – 13. 17 – 19], and you will read the words: “I heard … a loud voice.. saying, Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches …. fear not.”
There are all sorts of important challenges in this short order to
SEND to the churches. (recall from today’s Gospel the Risen Lord sending the disciples – all of whom were very different people.) The churches were the one Church (the number ‘7′ indicating wholeness and completeness). Each of these churches was bound by a common faith, yet we know that each had a different character with different challenges, and a different approach. YET THERE WAS UNITY. Our contemporary Church must, somehow or other, jettison the confused pastoral approach which equates unity with uniformity – and, consequently suffocates the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. What is effective for Europe is not automatically good for Africa, Asia, or South America! Euro-centrics need to be a lot less arrogant – and could learn much from the ‘other’ local churches!
We need, constantly, to remind ourselves that it is the
LORD’S CHURCH, not our own creation or possession. See TODAY’S FIRST SCRIPTURE [ACTS 5: 12 – 16] which tells us that “more than ever believers were added to the Lord.” TO THE LORD! Do we regard ourselves, first and foremost, as belonging to the Lord, or do we primarily define ourselves as Roman Catholics?! You cannot be a Christian let alone a Roman Catholic if you do not belong to the Lord! It is, as our Psalm reminds us, the Lord God who has given us light – and wholeness.