The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"


Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

An invitation to accept the risen Lord

We see Jesus in the world now, not physically, but with eyes of faith

April 22, Second Sunday of Easter


By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Today's Gospel reading is John's story of Pentecost and it presumes the ascension of Jesus. John tells us that Jesus not only wishes peace upon his disciples but also breathes upon them and tells them "Receive the Holy Spirit."

Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had told them he must go to the Father so that he might send them the Spirit. Now is the time for he has gone to the Father. His exaltation is complete.

John's words all portray an important event behind which lies a wonderful symbol. In Genesis, we are told that God sent forth the Spirit as a mighty wind and creation began. God breathed into the man made from the clay of the ground and so man became a living being.

Now Jesus has risen to a new life and breathes upon his disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit. A new creation has begun and from henceforth Jesus' disciples will gather on the first day of the week and celebrate that new creation.

Thomas is missing on the first occasion. We are not told where he was or why he was absent. The other disciples were gathered behind closed doors fearful of reprisals by the authorities. Wasn't Thomas afraid of this as well? We will never know.

But he is present on the second occasion in which Jesus appears. We know that he has refused to believe the testimony of the other disciples who have seen the Lord. Now he must make a faith decision.

Jesus did not criticize him for this previous lack of faith, but invites him to come forward and touch the wounds of his body. He is risen and challenges Thomas to accept this fact and that Jesus is not the same but now lives a new resurrected life.

In a way Thomas stands for all of us. We have been invited to believe in Jesus based upon the testimony of those who have gone before us.

It is hard to tell which is the most difficult to believe in Jesus having seen him in this resurrected body or on the witness of others. We do not know whether Thomas actually reached out and touched the wounds of Jesus but we do know that he fell to his knees and uttered those memorable words, "My Lord and my God." Thomas' profession of faith went beyond that of the other disciples for he believes that this Jesus who is risen is God.

John may be expressing the belief in Jesus that developed in his church and their own profession of faith rather than Thomas' actual words.

All of this applies as well to us today. We still gather on the first day of the week and hear God's word in memory of what Christ did at the Last Supper. We too experience the presence of Christ in the Word of God and in the Eucharist.

John's message to his community is that Jesus is still with us. We do not have to wait until the end of time for him to return. He is also present in the gathering when we meet in his name. We still depend upon the testimony of those who knew him in the events described in scripture. We see him now not physically but with eyes of faith.

We were born by baptism into a community that invites us to accept the risen Lord. We are called to share in Christ's ministry by inviting others to believe. We are often the reason that others come to him. For those who are parents this is obvious. But all need to be the sign of Christ's presence today. In this way we continue the effects of the new creation begun that day long ago.


(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)



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