EASTER II (A)
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. – John 20: 29
In our own way, we humans are amphibians too, except for us it is not a question of being either in the water or on land, but of being in both dimension simultaneously. We are physical creatures, but also spiritual beings. We may not always be aware of it, but the two dimensions interact. The problem is that the physical dimension of our existence is so prominent & so demanding of our attention that we often neglect the spiritual, & we assume it must be a separate world distant from us & beyond our reach.
This mistake becomes most acutely prominent when we are faced with death. Deprived of a loved one’s physical presence & faced with its permanence (unlike illness or being in jail), we often despair at the separation. It is too much to bear. The purpose of the resurrection appearances was to show the disciples how wrong they were to think like this. Note how initially they often failed to recognize the risen Christ. Thomas even insisted that he would have to touch the wounds before he could believe. But notice, he did not take up our Lord’s invitation to do just that.
Jesus was trying to wean them off their total dependence on the physical – to show them that the spiritual dimension is just as real. So there is a real sense in which our entire Christian journey is an exercise in becoming sensitive to & attentive to the spiritual – not as a separate dimension but as something integral with our daily life. The disciples were having to get used to the idea that Jesus was still present to them & that in a way more important than His physical presence had ever been.
What kind of a barrier is death? When someone is alive, we often talk of a spiritual presence to one another, i.e., we sense a reality deeper than body & mind that is crucial to the identity of a person; but that reality is mediated by body & mind. So when the body & mind have fallen away, this deeper reality is inaccessible. The spirit goes into another world. We say the deceased is with God, i.e., inactive. However, for the author of today’s Gospel, resurrection means Jesus is not yet with God (that requires Ascension), but He is still present to the ones He loved. The disciples do not go on without Him, but with Him in a new way.
When a person dies, separation is presupposed, & we want some indication that that person is somewhere & at peace. Our own death means reconnecting with those whom we have loved & lost. However, John’s “Good News” is not impressed with the separation power of death. Rather than separation, His death will bring about a condition in which His disciples will be able to see His abiding love clearly: “I will not leave you orphaned,” says our Lord. Now we will not perceive Him with physical eyes but with spiritual ones. Spiritual beings interdwell: “I am in the Father, you in me, & I in you,” says Jesus.
When the physical is present, it monopolizes consciousness. When it is absent, the emptiness can be experienced not only as loss but also as possibility. There is a new form of presence. It is not waiting for us beyond death. Even though the doors are locked, he is “in our midst.” On the spiritual level, we are never orphaned. The Gospel invites us to realize this so that we may be free of the , either our own or that of those we love. How intimate we are with our Lord’s Spirit will determine the extent of our freedom. AMEN!