‘Peace be with you…’
John 20:19-31
[This is the ninth of the 11 Resurrectional Gospel readings of Matins]

‘Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.’ These words of the poet T.S. Eliot can sum up the state of tentative belief of the disciples when Jesus came and stood among them in the locked upper room.

The shadow of doubt and fear still haunted them, whose faith, after all, was a bit weak and conditional at best, as ours can be. It took the appearance of the Risen Lord, His demonstration of his hands and his sides, and the blessing of ‘Peace,’ before the journey from disbelief to blissful joy could be completed.

The Risen Lord then breathed upon them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ The breath of the Lord calls to mind the creation of man.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen. 2:6).

Indeed, the word for soul and the word for breath are the same in both Hebrew and Greek. As breath animates the body, so to the Holy Spirit inspires the inner life of human beings, testifying to the truth and comforting us with peace in times of trial.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. (Jn. 14:26-27)

The Spirit is also an impetus for mission and outreach: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And it is the sign of priestly ordination: ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

The late-comer Thomas displays what must have been, as it is now, the common belief that the proof of the senses must proceed the faith of the mind and heart. But is this really the case? If we read this passage with care, we find that there is no description of Thomas actually taking up the Lord’s invitation to touch Him. Rather, Thomas in response exclaims what amounts to an early creed of the Church

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

This is followed by blessing from the Lord hat is also a challenge:

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.