The Roman Empire does not tolerate dissent, period. The rebel rabbi called Jesus from Nazareth, has been executed by the government for treason. Before hi death, Jesus did not deny his sovereignty to Pilate but clarified its nature, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” His death was predictable considering that the last phase of his life was begun by fulfilling a Messianic vignette in the writings of the great prophet Zechariah, by making a royal procession into Jerusalem at a time the ancient capital was a political powderkeg.
If Jesus has been established by the State as a traitor, then obviously his followers are also traitors. For that reason, they all abandoned him followed his arrest and went into hiding . They are isolated and fearful, just as many are today in our coronavirus lockdown. Now what? Well, we now enter another dimension as they encounter the Resurrected Christ. He is no longer bound by any limitations of physical existence, and now appears to his band out of thin air! What should he do –what will he do — to these faithless followers who betrayed him and his Cause?
First, he reconciles to them: “Peace be with you!” With that, the sad followers realize that he is alive and leading the movement, and they experience joy. Second, he commissions them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Third, he empowers them through the Holy Spirit to extend his sacramental presence in the world through all time! He confers the authority to forgive the sins of others, just as he has then forgiven them. By the sacramental ministry of these apostles — and the bishops who will succeed them, and the priests they will ordain — we all are reconciled (Baptism), forgiven (Penance), commissioned (Confirmation), and spiritually renewed (Eucharist). Some of us are also called to ordained ministry (Holy Orders), some to partnering in God (Marriage), and many are restored (Holy Unction). In these seven Sacraments, the ministry of Christ continues down the ages.
In our second vignette of the Risen Christ, we must understand that the authors, the Johannine Community, believed passionately in a corporeal resurrection and here make sport of their competition, the Thomist Community, who believed in a merely spiritual resurrection. Jesus here assures us that we, who have not seen the first “evidence” of resurrection, nonetheless believe and are thereby more blessed!
So, what is our takeaway from these two remarkable tales? You and I have been admitted to a wonderful Family of Faith through baptism and have access to all the sacramental ministrations of that Church. When your faith does not seem adequate to the tasks God is calling you to, trust that in God’s good time you will be given all you need.