Sunday April 3, 2016
A Reflection on John 20:19-31, N.A.B.
By: Larry T
As far as I am concerned the only reason to eat cake is for the frosting. I always maneuver for the corner piece of a rectangular or square cake; I don’t have to explain the reason for this to my fellow icing lovers. On the other hand, my wife doesn’t share my love for frosting and will carefully scrape it off when it’s too thick for her taste. Including the icing most 3-layer round cakes are about 8-inches in diameter and 6 to 7-inches tall. A generous layer of icing is usually covering the top of cupcakes, so we don’t want to overlook them. They are usually 3-inches in diameter and 2-inches tall.
Does Thomas’s faith resemble a 3-layer cake or is it more like a cupcake in this Gospel reading?
19 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.”
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.
23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 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 nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 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.”
27 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.”
28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.
31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
- John 20:19-31, N.A.B.
Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion and death Thomas’s faith was no doubt the size of a 3-layer cake, but after Jesus’ death Thomas’s faith must have been crushed. We can easily imagine Thomas shaking his head in wide-eyed disbelief as he listened to reliable eyewitness descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Why couldn’t Jesus have saved himself? After all, it was because of His many healings, miracles, and teachings that Thomas had come to believe in Him. But, witnesses saw a Roman centurion thrust his spear directly into Jesus’ heart, so there was no denying His death. In the end was Jesus just another in a long line of Jewish prophets to be put to death by his own people?
Upon discovering Jesus’ empty tomb Mary of Magdala tearfully reported, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don‘t know where they put him.” Had grave robbers stolen His body, or had the Jewish authorities taken it away? What was Thomas to make of the empty tomb?
Thomas had probably been wandering the streets aimlessly, carefully avoiding Roman and Jewish authorities, while trying to sort out the roller coaster chain of events. And now his friends were telling him that Jesus had been raised from the dead? Well, that was too much to accept! That is, until he spoke with the raised Jesus and touched His physical body; his “My Lord and my God!” was a public profession of faith in the Divinity of Jesus.
What are we to make of it all? We’ve seen that on its own Jesus’ crucifixion and death would have been just another ghastly execution at the hands of the Romans. Likewise the empty tomb on its own would have meant nothing. Take away Jesus’ crucifixion and death and the empty tomb, and there would have been nothing unusual about his sharing a meal with his disciples. But when we combine Jesus’ crucifixion and death with the empty tomb and with His bodily resurrection, we have the three pillars that support Christianity. Take away any one of these three Easter events and we might as well take away all twenty-seven books of the New Testament!
As Christians these three events are the main ingredients of our faith cake. How long does it take a faith cake to rise to its full potential? It takes a lifetime to reach 3-layer cake dimensions. But, what goes into the icing? Having a good priest as a spiritual guide, studying Holy Scripture, enjoying Christian music, and associating with the right kind of friends are some of the elements that go into the icing, but in the end they only make up the icing. If we try to heap enough frosting on a cupcake to make it pass for a 3-layer cake we wind up with a shapeless blob. Sadly, too many of us try to cover our lifeless, stagnant faith with layer upon layer of frosting. God charges each of us with the responsibility to grow in our faith. Happy cooking!