Acts 5: 12-16; Ps118;
Revelation 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

How effective are Jesus’ words? According to the Gospels, what he says happens. To the blind man he says "Have sight your faith has saved you" (Lk 18:42) – and the man sees. To the cripple by the pool at Bethsaida, he says, "Rise pick up your mat and walk" (Jn 5:8) and the man gets up and does just that. To the dead Lazarus in the tomb he says, "Lazarus, come out! (Jn 11:13) and Lazarus comes out of the tomb.

But these manifestation of the Word’s effective power are not new. From the very first words of the Bible God’s Word does what it says. In the opening of Genesis God speaks over the void, "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3), and light happens...so does all of creation, step by step, through the fruitful utterances of God’s Word. The prophets receive their call because, as Jeremiah says, "The word of God came to me…." (1:4). It is a word that, not only calls the prophets, but sustains them through their arduous tasks, even to their deaths.

Today’s gospel reveals the effectiveness of Jesus’ word when he speaks to his disciples, fear-bound behind locked doors. They had seen how the Romans brutalized and killed Jesus and they were afraid. They had been with him as he entered Jerusalem and they reveled in the adulation the crowds gave him. But Jesus was killed and as his known disciples they were in danger of the same fate. Mary Magdalene brought news of seeing the risen Lord, but that did not convince them, or dissolve their fears. They got together, locked the doors and were a community united by fear.

That is when Jesus comes through the locked doors, appears to them and speaks his greeting, "Peace be with you." It is not just a pep talk to scared the disciples; not just, "Stiff upper lip" or, "Pull yourselves together." Nor, does he reprimand them for their failures. It was Jesus speaking an authoritative word. The same word that raised Lazarus, forgave sin, and gave sight to the blind.

In the Bible peace, "shalom," is not just an absence of conflict. It is more embracing: it means that everyone and everything is safe and in right order. All separations and estrangement are healed – with God, other humans and even with nature. What was broken is mended and made new. Isn’t that what we hope for in our personal lives, and for the world – especially these days as we continue to grieve the slaughter happening in Ukraine?

The Bible teaches that such peace is possible only if we are reconciled with God. This reconciliation cannot be achieved by mere human effort. The story of the Gospels is that God has taken the initiative and made peace with us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus removes the disciples’ fear by first speaking a word. It is the Word that created the world. Now that word is powerful enough to drive out the fear of death and re-create his frightened disciples into people of faith and courage, strong enough for them to follow Christ all the way to their own sacrificial deaths.

Thomas was not with the original group who experienced Christ that first evening of the week. He does not believe the disciples’ experience and wants concrete proof. The next week Thomas is with the others and Jesus appears again, "Peace be with you," he says again to the disciples, this time including Thomas. Thomas had wanted to touch Jesus’ wounds and Jesus invites him to do so, but whether he does or not, is not told in the story. What we do know is Jesus again speaks, "Peace be with you." – the Word that accomplishes what it says.

Death does not have the last word – life does. Jesus is alive and is the Word of life. In the midst of a world that would stir fear in us, can we trust the God of life, who in Jesus overcomes death and speaks a word peace to us? Trusting that word can we be peace to others, show them that peace and not hatred and violence, will last?

With Thomas we kneel before our risen Lord and exclaim, "My Lord and my God." Let us not give up on our efforts, as small as they seem, to bring peace into our families, workplace, classroom and community. What peace-making efforts in my parish can I support that will bring people together, build community and console the fearful?

Those who were in that locked room and experienced the living Christ have gone, but his presence is with us and by the power of the Spirit the message of Good News continues to spread by our lives. The Greek for church is "ekklesia," which means, "called out." So, we are the community of people "called out" by the Spirit to live as a peace-making community in the midst of the world. As Jesus has reminded us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Mt 5:9).

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