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The faith of Thomas

"My Lord and my God"

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We are in the evening of Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Jesus, in the second part of chapter 20 of John's Gospel. The first part (1-18) was set in the morning with the race to the tomb of Peter and John, who saw the traces of Jesus' resurrection: the linen cloths and bandages, but they didn’ see Jesus. And then there's that beautiful passage of the encounter of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. Everything happened in the morning.

Instead the second appearance of Jesus to all the apostles, happened in the afternoon of the same day of Easter. The apostles who during the night of the capture had moved apart and divided, then came together and met again in one place, but behind closed doors, because they were afraid of being arrested, condemned and killed. The doors were barred, no one could enter, but Jesus came and said "Peace be with you". It was the first gift that Jesus after the resurrection gave his disciples. It was the first gift of the Risen Jesus!.

What is peace? Peace is the return of man to his truth, that is the truth of his creation that was given by Jesus Christ to him. Only Jesus can give man his truth, because he worked the Redemption, manifesting the truth that comes from God. Jesus conquered sin that is the author of non-peace! The gift of peace is the first gift of the Risen Jesus, because it makes us realize that we are people created in the image and likeness of God. No-peace makes us live sin, the no-truth of man. The truth of man is told in the first two chapters of Genesis, where, through these stories, the plan of God is presented; what God had designed and made for man, manifesting the truth about man. Peace is the order of creation, it is respect, love, obedience, fraternity, unity, communion, charity, virtue. Peace is all this. On the contrary no-peace is hatred, division, resentment, murder, envy, death, revenge, vice. The peace of Christ therefore leads man to the mystery of creation. Peace leads man to the original plan that God had realized before sin with Adam and Eve and sin ruined.

But peace given by Jesus Risen is more admirable, because man has become a participant of the divine nature;  he has become a true child of God. Peace arises from the real truth of man, and the resurrection of Jesus manifests more clearly the truth of man, because it reveals the reason of Creation: to be with God. Now the Risen Jesus lives with Father, as each of us is called to live with the Father, for the Father, in the Father. And the Church, giving the Truth and Grace of Jesus Christ gives us peace.

What Jesus tells Luisa about the gift of peace? He tells a lot about peace, but it is interesting to read a page that can be found in Volume VI of Luisa’ writings, where through very effective images, close to the daily life, Jesus explains what peace means. Once more we understand how these writings of the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta can help us to deeply understand the word of God and allows us to carry the message of the Gospel into our daily lives. Luisa's writings are like a magnifying glass that makes us understand deeply what the Word of God wanted to communicate. It is not something else. They don’t want to be anything else but a mean that allows us to understand all that God has already revealed in Scripture and through the mystical experience of some saints, helps the believer in his own spiritual experience and his own journey of faith.

When a river is exposed to the rays of the sun, in looking into it one sees the same sun that is there in the heavens. However, this happens when the river is calm, with no wind that ripples its waters. But if the waters are rippled, even though the river is completely exposed to the sun, one can see nothing – everything is confusion. The same for the soul: when she is exposed to the rays of the Divine Sun, if she is calm she perceives the Divine Sun within herself, she feels Its heat, she sees the light and understands the truth. But if she is disturbed, even though she has It within herself, she feels nothing but confusion and disturbance. Therefore, we must hold peace as our greatest treasure if we cherish being united with Jesus

We understand how peace truly is capable of telling the truth about man: to have the image of God within himself; the "Divine Sun" is within us, we perceive within us the "heat" that comes from the Divine Sun, the "light" that reflects the mirror of our soul. All this happens if, in fact, we live in peace, the instrument capable of making us understand who we are!

Jesus showed the Apostles the holes in his hands and side. Why? To prove the perfect identity between the Crucified and Risen Lord. The Crucified Christ is the Risen Christ. You can’t talk about Resurrection of Jesus without referring to the Passion. The Risen Christ is the Lamb that was slain. And this is the joyful discovery of the Apostles when Jesus appeared: to see the Crucified and Risen Lord! It's not a ghost. Luke, in his accounts of the resurrection, emphasized the incredulity of the apostles who thought they were seeing a ghost and Jesus even asked them for something  to eat, to show that He had flesh and bones (Lk 24: 36-43).

The joy was that they found the person who had lost with death, but also because then, with the resurrection, their Master could no longer be taken away from them.

The presence of Jesus gives joy. A joy that the apostles couldn’t forget, because also their presence, which was also the presence of Jesus Christ, was to give joy to all those who would encounter in their apostolic mission

The Christian is the man of joy! What is the image that we give of our Christianity? Are we happy people? Sometimes our presence infuses boredom, sadness, boredom, precisely because we lack the joy of having met the Risen Jesus and often it’s our distance from others and not our closeness that gives joy. True joy arises from the encounter with the Risen Christ. Yes, He was Crucified! But He is Risen!

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you ". These words of Jesus are the passage from the Old Testament to the New Testament, from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Testament the Father acted, it was the Father who called, He talked, He sent, He commanded, He ordered, He wanted. The Father called Adam into existence and with him also Eve. After sin, the Father called Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Judges, Samuel, David, the prophets. Throughout the Old Testament it was the Father who worked. Also Jesus Christ is sent by the Father. Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the Father, His Anointed, His Christ, His Redeemer. From that moment, that is,  by the resurrection of Jesus, all moved from the Father to the Son: then it was  Christ who called and sent, He gave the mission,  He conferred a ministry.Then it was Christ who sent the apostles. He sent them in the same way as the Father sent Him. The disciples must bear witness to Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ bore witness to the Father, so the disciples must bear witness to Christ Jesus. Attention! The disciples should not testify of the Father, but of Christ, because only testifying of Christ I can make God known as Father. "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father sees." (Jn 14:9). Christianity finds its center only in Jesus. This does not exclude the Father and the Holy Spirit, because when I speak of Christ, inevitably I speak of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus in his person had to show the Father and the disciples, in their person, must manifest Jesus Christ. Jesus on the cross borne witness of the Father and the disciples must bear witness to Christ on their cross. Jesus is the way to get to the Father as the disciples are the way to reach Christ.

In the Old Testament it was the Father who breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being. " Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being " (Gen 2:7). Then it was no longer the Father who gave life, but Jesus breathed on the Apostles a new breath of life and turned them into new living beings through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Except for Adam and Eve that were created directly by God, all other human beings were born with the inheritance of sin. They had no time to generate a just man or a saint from their holiness. They committed sin soon and from that moment they generated in sin their children, and therefore all mankind.

The difference between the disciples and Adam and Eve is completely different. All sinful humanity came from them. All the holy humanity can arise from the disciples. Although a disciple moves away from the path of Truth and Grace, there are others who persevere and bring holiness and truth in their hearts.

The disciples really can generate a new humanity, because they have been generated by the Spirit. They generate it by taking a son of Adam and making him a child of God through the waters of baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Now even a sinner can become a saint, an evil person can become a good person, the liar a truthful man, the unjust man a righteous man, the person that is away from us can become close to us, the enemy a friend. Through the work of Christ's disciples the division becomes unity, egoism becomes charity, the separation becomes communion, the multitude becomes an only one thing. This is the new life that the Apostles should generate in the world.

In Volume XII of the writings of Luisa, Jesus explains the best work of creation: man. He describes him just as He had thought of him before sin and explains how man about nothing was capable of ruining this great work of God.

The creation of man is the masterpiece of the creative power, in whom, not in sprays, but in waves, in rivers did the Eternal One pour His love, His beauty, His mastery; and taken by excess of love, He placed Himself as the center of man. But God wanted a residence worthy of Him and for this reason He creates man in His image and likeness. He draws a breath from the depth of His love, and infuses life in him with His omnipotent breath, endowing man with all His qualities, proportioned to a creature, making of him a little god. Therefore, everything we see in the Creation was absolutely nothing compared to the creation of man. Oh, how many more beautiful heavens, stars and suns did He extend in the created soul; how much variety of beauty, how many harmonies! It is enough to say that He looked at the created man, and He found him so beautiful as to be enamored with him. Jealous of this portent of His, He Himself became the custodian and possessor of man, and said: ‘I have created everything for you. I give you dominion over everything. All is yours, and you will be all mine.”

We will not be able to comprehend everything, the seas of love, the intimate and direct relations, the likeness that runs between Creator and creature. If the creature knew how beautiful her soul is, how many divine qualities it contains, how it surpasses all created things in beauty, in power, in light - to the extent that one can say that it is a little god, and contains a little world within itself, how much more would she esteem herself, and would not smear with the slightest sin such a rare beauty, such a portentous prodigy of the creative power, But the creature, almost blind in knowing herself, and much more blind in knowing her Creator, keeps dirtying herself among a thousand filthy things, to the point of disfiguring the work of the Creator; It’s God’s sorrow. Therefore, if we live in the Divine Will, with God we can substitute for our brothers before the throne of the Eternal One - for all the acts which they should do for having been created as a prodigy of love of His omnipotence; and yet, they are so ungrateful.

Behind this passage we can see God's noble intention for man. Indeed we are as a miracle, the psalm says, "I praise you because you made me as a prodigy" (Ps 138) and about nothing  we emptied of meaning all the work that God desired to accomplish for  man. But the resurrection of Jesus allowed God to realize this dream. The Holy Spirit given by the Risen Jesus allows us to become new creatures, makes us "to be born from above", of  water and the Holy Spirit.

Thomas was not present at this first meeting of Jesus with ‘the Twelve’. Thomas was called Didymus, that is, the Twin. We can interpret this nickname as an image of the believer who has within himself another "twin" and this represents his "unbeliever" part. This is the characteristic of a true disciple. Within each of us there is a believer and an unbeliever.

Sometimes one side prevails over the other and we are called continually to confront ourselves between these two sides that exist within us; sometimes here are the life events themselves that cause this clash between the believer and the unbeliever inside of us. The other disciples, those who were present at the meeting, told him what happened in a very simple way: "We have seen the Lord!".

But they said the most important thing, the heart of everything, the kerygma, that every Christian must announce, it is the synthesis of the Gospel. They didn’t say nothing of what they experienced in the first encounter with the Risen Jesus, but only that they saw the Lord.

And here is Thomas’ response: " Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." Let’s explain this answer: if I believed, without touching, only seeing, I could deceive myself as you have deceived yourselves.

After all, the reasoning of Thomas is easy to understand. Only one sense can deceive a man. Anyone can say that he sees or he saw the Lord. With two senses that agree, we are in the law of the truth of a testimony.

Thomas, after all, didn’t say something wrong, he wanted to invite the Apostles to account for what they believed, to argue that particular experience that they lived in meeting the Risen Lord and not just to say that they saw him.

This happens also in our experience. Many times we regret the fact that people who are close to us, to whom we always talk about Jesus, are not touched by our words. This happens precisely because we speak only of Jesus. Jesus, however, must be seen through our lives, He must be touched through our works of love. We must activate all our senses to make our testimony credible and true and to not limit ourselves to just one.

Jesus listened to what Thomas was saying to the other disciples. He was awaiting that Thomas fell into his doubt, and matured well in it. Sometimes the Lord seems that He enjoys “to soak”, in this case, Thomas in his doubt. He did it also with Luisa, with regard to His privation and He did so in order to intensify Luisa’s desire to have the Lord beside her. Among the many chapters that speak about this we choose one.

The privation of God excites the desire more, and in this excited desire the soul breathes God; and God, feeling more ignited by this excitement of the soul, breathes the soul. In this breathing each other - God and the soul - thirst for love ignites more, and since love is fire, it forms the purgatory of the soul.

What John wants to teach Christians of his communities (and us) is that the Risen Jesus has a life that escapes our senses, a life that can’t be touched with the hands or seen with the eyes, it can be reached only by Faith. This is also true for the Apostles who also had a unique experience of the Risen Jesus. We can’t have faith in what we have seen.

We can’t have demonstrations, scientific proofs of the resurrection. If someone claims to see, observe, touch, he must renounce his faith. We say: "Blessed are those who have seen it." On the contrary for Jesus, blessed are those who have not seen, not because it’s hard for them to believe and therefore they have more merits, no; they are blessed because their faith is genuine, pure, indeed, it is the only pure faith.

Eight days later, Jesus came as the first time, behind closed doors. Immediately Thomas was invited to touch and observe the truth of the Body of Jesus and his resurrection. Thomas was asked to do as much as it was his will to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. At first, Jesus invited him to touch and then to see: to touch the wounds and to put his hand into his side.

But He invited him also to not be faithless, but believing! Incredulity is not always rational, logical, wise, intelligent, as science teaches us; Incredulity is often irrational, illogical, ignorant, foolish. The mind should not always see and touch to verify the reality of things, but sometimes its existence is by virtue of a word spoken by another person, by an eyewitness.

The other person is a real source of knowledge for me by virtue of the trust and esteem that I place in the other. The apostles knew each other for some time, they had lived with Jesus for three years and between them there was a strong bond of trust, they were all witnesses to the work of Jesus, and also lived the drama of the Passion of Jesus, even if from a distance, because they fled.

Therefore incredulity is illogical because it seems to betray strongly the bond that, instead, have characterized their belonging to the Twelve. Why should Thomas have opened up to faith in the Risen Jesus? Because those who testified were his ten brothers, they had no intention of joking with him and this is attested by the tone of their words and manner of their behavior: "We have seen the Lord

"We have seen the Lord!". Even the change of their behavior, after their meeting with the Risen Jesus, is another proof of the seriousness and truth of their statements. Ten witnesses are credible. Thomas’s incredulity is illogical, foolish, against the life itself.  Trusting in others is proper to man. Without faith in others it is as if our humanity sank into the depths of impossibility. Without faith in the other, nothing would be possible. Without faith in others, we would live without certainty.

On this very subject there is a small chapter in Volume IV which speaks about believing and how everything is written in the hearts of those who believe, hope and love.

In order to comprehend a subject well it takes belief, because without belief everything is dark in the human intellect. On the other hand, the mere believing turns on a light in the mind, and by means of this light one can recognize with clarity truth and falsehood, when it is grace that operates, when it is nature, and when the devil. The Gospel is known to all, but who comprehends the meaning of Jesus’ words, and the truths contained in It? Who keeps them in his heart and makes of them a treasure with which to purchase the eternal kingdom? One who believes. As for all others, not only do they not understand a thing, but they use my words to mock them and to make fun of the holiest things. So, it can be said that everything is written in the hearts of those who believe, hope and love, while nothing is written for everyone else. The same with us: one who has a little bit of belief sees things with clarity and finds the truth; one who does not, sees things as all confused.

Thomas saw things as all confused, because he did not put his trust in the faith of his brothers. And this happens to us when we do not trust the other.

Thomas did not need any more to touch. It was enough for him to have seen and heard his Master. It was enough to such an extent that he made a true profession of faith: "My Lord and my God." It was the faith that came from his contemplation of the Risen Jesus. This is the profession of faith that must arise in every heart that opens to Christ Jesus, after having heard the testimony of his resurrection.  

Jesus must be the Lord, the God of the whole world. The testimony of his resurrection must be aimed to this: to ensure that every man does the same profession of faith as Thomas. Jesus, then, recalled the theme of the birth of the faith and gave it its perennial status.

Faith doesn’t arises from sight. Sight doesn’t influence faith. Faith arises from testimony. Those who believe through the testimony of his brothers are truly blessed. Blessed is he who believes to testify. Blessed is he who believes  because others have reported the fact, the reality of Lord’s resurrection.

This is the faith of the Church that is Apostolic, therefore it is founded on the testimony of the Apostles. Faith arises from the Word that is preached. The way of faith is man who has been transformed by faith. It’s the man who lives by faith and lives by faith if he lives by obedience.

The very word "obedience" (ob-audire) is connected with listening and participating, through obedience, in what we heard. Luisa made all this the foundation of all her writings, which were produced only for obedience to her spiritual father (Don Gennaro De Gennaro). And again in Volume IV Luisa admirably describes what obedience means. It is one of the most beautiful definitions of obedience.

Obedience releases and chains; and since it is chain, it binds the Divine Volition with the human, and makes them one, in such a way that the soul does not act with the power of her will, but with the power of the Divine Will. Besides, it is not us who will obey, but Jesus will obey in us.

This is what makes the life of the believer fully realized, that is when it is no longer man who accomplishes a unilateral act of obedience towards God, but God Himself, living in the heart of man, who will obeys in man. This is the maturity of Faith.


Don Marco
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