Gospel Lectio Divina for Pentecost Sunday, 6/5/22
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
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.”
for fear of the Jews
Jesus broke through their fears to help them believe. Sometimes I expect God to break through my fear and doubt as well, to prove himself beyond my doubt. When he doesn’t there is always a reason. Why did he appear to the disciples in the midst of their fear? I believe it was to make it clear to them that their mission as his disciples was all about God’s grace. Without his grace, they would not have had enough courage. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, they would not have been able to spread the Gospel effectively. The same is true for us. If we do not pray for faith and courage, we will falter when we try to evangelize. We need the Holy Spirit.
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ first words to the disciples after his resurrection are “Peace be with you.” The burden of death is now gone, if you just believe in Jesus. Peace begins with him. It doesn’t matter how much the leaders of society promise peace. If we’re being truthful to ourselves and one another we know that peace begins in the individual’s heart. There will be no peace in the world if there is no peace in our hearts, and only God can bring that kind of peace. He alone can fulfill our hearts’ every need and desire.
he showed them his hands and his side
It’s a brief detail that many readers may gloss over, but the fact that Jesus showed the disciples his wounds is significant. Thomas is often criticized for having little faith, since he did not believe the disciples when they told him Jesus had risen. When someone lacks faith, they are often called a “doubting Thomas”. That’s not fair to Thomas, though. Not only was he expected to believe an extraordinary claim from the disciples, but the disciples had already received the very proof that Thomas was demanding: he wanted to see the wounds. Jesus was simply giving Thomas the same treatment, the same proof he gave the rest of his disciples the week prior. Now the whole meaning of the “doubting Thomas” changes for me. His lack of faith wasn’t due due skepticism as much as it was due to the fact that he wasn’t there with the rest of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them.
I have found the same to be true in my own quest for more faith. There is no lack of evidence. The problem is I’m not around to see it when God gives it. In other words, I’m not being attentive enough to spot the evidence God gives. When he is answering a prayer through a homily, my mind may have been wandering and not focusing on the homily. Prayers and daily Scripture readings are other occasions where God may answer prayers, but if I skip these routines I may miss out on those answers–just as Thomas missed out on this visit from Jesus to the disciples.
But hold on. The disciples were only in the Upper Room out of fear of being arrested. Was Thomas being the courageous one by not being among them? I’m not sure if we can know for certain. Why was Thomas the only disciple not present? I don’t know why I feel so compelled to think of Thomas in this Gospel passage that doesn’t even mention him, but the thought of him being absent here is intriguing for some reason.
This Gospel story is a popular one. We read it at least once a year. Every time, there is a chance to discover something new. That is why we practice lectio divina. God has new truths and mysteries to reveal to us through Scripture every time we read it, if we are patient and humble enough to wait for what he has to reveal. So I present this as something to meditate on: Where was Thomas? Was he hiding somewhere else? Was he out of town on some errand? Scripture does not seem too concerned about where he was. And yet the concept of the “doubting Thomas” has lasted for ages. Perhaps, if any other disciple had not been there when Jesus appeared, he would have said the same thing as Thomas. Then we’d be talking about “doubting Matthew” or “doubting Bartholomew” or whoever else it was.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Every line of Scripture has meaning that goes deeper than the surface. In this line, I consider the anagogical sense of the words. Sometimes I picture myself standing before two groups in the moments after my death. One group consists of Jesus, the angels and saints. The other consists of Satan and his host of demons, and they’re tempting me to join them with all the sins that tempted me in my past life, all their false promises. Which group would I choose? Convincing myself to choose Christ is a daily battle, if I’m being honest. When the disciples rejoiced in seeing the Lord, they were foreshadowing what every follower of Christ should hope to do at the hour of their death. Will I rejoice in seeing Jesus at my death? Only by the grace of God and the prayers of the saints.
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.”
There is so much history and theology packed into these three sentences that a whole book–at least–could be written on nothing but them. Jesus gives the disciples the same authority he has, just as God the Father gave Jesus authority. Just as Jesus’ critics doubted that he could forgive sins, people have doubted and will always doubt that the successors of the disciples–priests–can forgive sins.
But again, the thought of Thomas returns. When Jesus appeared to him a week later, he did not say these things to Thomas. Does this mean he did not receive the Holy Spirit the same way the other disciples did? Was he given the power to forgive sins as well? There are so many questions, but that’s okay. The more I seek the truth, the more answers I get. Yes, that only leads to more questions, but the questions lead to more answers. That’s how we grow deeper and deeper in the truth and in faith. Some answers I may never know this side of heaven, but that only makes me desire heaven more.
My Lord and my God,
I believe we all have a doubting Thomas in us. That is why you appeared to all of the disciples, you’re very chosen ones, and gave them all the proof they needed to believe. Like a good parent, you gave them the provisions necessary to go out into the world and preach the Gospel. I pray that you give all of your disciples on earth those same provisions. I pray for faith not just for myself but for all who believe, whether they’re struggling to or not. We’re all going to need more faith at some point in our lives, if not now. Please, protect us from ourselves. Give us genuine reasons to believe in you so we don’t fall back on our own self-righteous attempts to remain steadfast. Only you have the power to sustain our faith. Only you can give that holy gift. I will settle for nothing less than authentic faith from you, the source. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Listen and God will reveal different parts of Bible stories you never thought of, even if you have read the passage dozens of times. There are clues hiding in words we tend to skip over. The mystery will go on for our entire lives, if not all of eternity, if we continue to seek the Truth. He will never lead us to a dead end, and he will always have something more to teach us. Praise the Lord with the Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, and all the choirs of angels. By reading Scripture attentively, we discover the reasons why these celestial beings, who are pure intellect, can go on praising him for ever. It’s because not even the angels can reach the bottom of God’s endless well of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.