“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”
I take part in a book study every Sunday night. I love this group because we study Christian books and stretch our brains as well as deepen our faith. This past Sunday was particularly interesting. Right before we started the conversation about the book, a close friend posed the question, “What’s the difference between disciples and apostles?” It’s funny, because somewhere in my brain I knew the answer but at that moment, I drew a complete blank! Naturally, in this situation I turned to another close friend, Google. I told my friend, “According to Google a disciple is someone who believes in and studies Jesus, as the lord and saviour. An Apostle is someone who was specifically chosen by Jesus to spread the gospel after his death and resurrection.”
I find it amazing that I was asked that question a mere two days before writing and submitting this reflection. You might think, “so what? What does this have to do with this week’s reflection?” Well, in today’s gospel, you’ll notice that Jesus greets his apostles with the gift of peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He also charges his disciples (now apostles) with the mission to continue his work. Jesus was sent by God, and so too, does Jesus send his disciples “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This continuation of Jesus’ own mission is an essential part of the church. For His disciples to accomplish this mission, he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of faith and strengthens us to bear witness to Jesus’ Resurrection. Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness and reconciliation are gifts to us from Jesus. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share these with others. This is another essential aspect of what it means to be Christ’s Church.
You’ll also notice Thomas and his hesitation in believing that Jesus was resurrected. His doubt represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of disciples. All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing. To quote Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp., “Doubt and fear limit the greatest effort and power in the world. They make it difficult for one to believe the wonders that God has worked by resurrecting Christ. Therefore, we must expel the spirit of doubt and fear from our lives in order to experience the power of the resurrected Christ. Also, let us embrace the peace that Christ brings to us this Easter. The power of Christ’s resurrection brings healing and peace to our body and soul. It also restores us to life. This was the reason he was resurrected.”
Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples. It is part of our human nature to seek hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to the disciples after his death is, indeed, the same Jesus who was crucified. Luckily for us, Thomas was given the opportunity to be our representative who obtains this information. He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who had died. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed for we have not seen and yet have believed. Again, I’ll quote Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, “As we bear witness through our words and actions to the resurrection of Christ, let us give thanks to God because, He considered us worthy of sharing in the power of the risen Lord. His love and mercy for us endures forever.” So even if you’re like Thomas and you doubt the events that occurred, how has your life changed this past week? Are you now more like Jesus, showing up bringing peace, offering peace, embodying peace? Like the apostles, have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? Will you go out and continue Jesus’ mission?