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John 20:19-31 – Appearance to the Disciples
Second Sunday of Easter

When the other disciples reported to Thomas what had happened, telling him that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, Thomas did not believe on account of their testimony, however. He flatly refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into the spear wound in Jesus’ side.

Eight days later the disciples were again together behind closed doors. This time Thomas was present with the other disciples. Jesus (who is portrayed as knowing precisely what Thomas had said previously about what it would take to make him believe) now turned to Thomas and offered him the opportunity to touch the nail marks in his hands and the spear wound in his side. He, then, exhorted him,  “do not be unbelieving but believe” (Jn 20:27).  Thomas’ answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God”! (Jn 20:28).

Thomas’ statement, while it may have been an exclamation, does in fact confess the faith which he had previously lacked. Thomas’ reply is not simply an exclamation: it is an assertion, an admirable act of faith in the divinity of Christ: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas’ confession, is the culmination of the gospel’s Christology, since it acknowledges the crucified/exalted Jesus as “Lord and God” (other acclamations in the Gospel, 1:49; 4:42; 6:69; 9:37-38; 11:27; 16:30; see cf. JBC 61:235). The Fourth Gospel opened with many other titles for Jesus: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51). Now the climax is reached with the proclamation by Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”  Thomas’ confession of faith  has become the ejaculatory prayer often used by Christians all over the world, especially as an act of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist.

It is significant that Jesus does not reject or modify Thomas’ confession. Instead he accepts it approvingly but reprimands Thomas for demanding such a sign before he will believe (Jn 20:25; cf. 4:48). He should believe in the basis of the word which has been spoken to him by others (e.g., 17:20;  see cf. JBC 61:235).

Jesus in saying those words concludes that those Christians who have believed without seeing have the same faith which is in no way different from that of the first disciples. These refer to the  future disciples who would believe without the benefit of seeing but have come to believe in Jesus through the words of his disciples and their successors.

As we celebrate today the Second Sunday of Easter, let us heed the Lord’s exhortation to stop our unbelief and beg Him to increase our faith so that, like Thomas, we can also acclaim the highest Christological confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!,” that resounded throughout all history (Jn 20:28). When we are in doubt let us learn from Thomas who has recovered from the crisis caused by doubt and imitate his example. Few moments from now, we will witness the priest prays the consecration and elevates the body and blood of Jesus, let us be one in heart and mind with Thomas the Apostle in acclaiming, “My Lord and God!” (Jn 20:28). 

Gospel Reflection: Mt: 11:28

A man approaches a priest and asks: “Please bless me, Father, coz I have so many problems.

My son is a drug addict, my daughter an unwed mother, my wife a gambler.

Priest: Wala bang positive sa buhay mo? (Is there nothing positive about your life?)

Man: Me, Father… HIV positive!

* * *

Of course, that’s still negative. The funny story somehow illustrates how we are beset by a lot of problems.

Jesus in this 14th Sunday gospel invites us: “Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

Christ’s words are very timely and consoling, considering our problems today – the rising cost of living (and even cost of dying!), calamities like the recent typhoon “Frank,” holdups, personal and family problems.

* * *

Jesus comes to us as a friend who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great compassion” – a “bridge over troubled waters,” as the song puts it.

He teaches us to cultivate relinquishment, the ability to “let go” of our anxieties and to put ourselves in God’s hands.

* * *

But some cynic might say, “How can I put myself in God’s hands when my creditors are running after me over my two-million peso debt?” Or, should I not worry if I’m on the verge of losing my job due to retrenchment? Or, this lump on my neck is diagnosed as terminal cancer?

These should be causes for worry indeed. But we must distinguish between worry and concern. Worry is an emotional response that is stressful and draining. It is problem-oriented.

* * *

Concern, on the other hand, is a rational and constructive process – and it is solution-oriented. It’s the difference between fear unaccompanied by useful action and the determination to calmly look for a solution.

As regards unpaid debt, I know of some people who through sheer diligence, determination, and financial restraint were able to gradually pay their obligation.

* * *

As regards losing a job, it’s not the end of the road. You can always start again somewhere. As the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” As long as you’re alive, there’s hope.

When we put ourselves in God’s hands, it does not mean we’re escaping from personal responsibility. It is, as “concern” mean, solution-oriented.

Remember the metaphor Jesus uses in this Sunday gospel about the yoke? In Palestine two oxen are joined together in pulling heavy loads. The two oxen represent God and you sharing the burden.

* * *

It means God helps us but we have also to do our share. Ask yourself: When you have problems, do you present them to the Lord and ask for help? Or do you just keep them to yourself? Do you give in to self-pity and excessive worry, not doing anything to remedy your predicament?

* * *

Once a lady was talking about the secret of her success. She made this striking remark: “I work hard; I do my part then I let God do the rest.” Incidentally, that’s also the principle behind the success of our boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. Notice how he prays hard, kneeling at the ring’s corner before and after the fight. However, he also trains on long and dreary hours, always learning the winning techniques.

That should be our Christian attitude, too. As much as we pray so must we work. “Ora et labora.”

Author: Fr. Luis Beltran, SVD


August 2019
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