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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Resurrection Appearances - The Disciples in the Upper Room - John 20:19-23

Monday, April 29, 2013


In our Gospel passage from John we are presented with a scene of fearful tension. The disciples are gathered together in a room, the doors are bolted shut; they have turned in on themselves. They are frightened and perplexed at the death of Jesus, the disappearance of His body and the extraordinary witness of Mary Magdalene to His resurrection. They are in ‘fear of the Jews’ and at a loss to explain all that has happened and what they will do as a result. This sense of fear and alienation is then shattered, as only Christ can shatter the longing and fear in our hearts.

Jesus appears in their midst and without any preamble gives them what they most earnestly desire; He says, “Peace be with you.” Such a simple greeting, and yet within His peace, within Him, is to be found the souls greatest and fullest consummation. He shows them His hands and side, reassures them that He has indeed risen and then says to them again; “Peace be with you.”His peace given, Jesus can now begin to empower the disciples, and give them the sense of purpose and direction that they have lost. A soul which is not at peace is ill-disposed to spread the joy and peace of Christ. 

Having given His peace, Jesus can now reveal to the disciples their purpose. This purpose is Christ’s purpose also: they will be His representatives on earth; “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” The disciples are charged with the task of spreading the Gospel of Christ, to Jew and Gentile alike. Their place is not behind the locked and bolted doors of a house in Jerusalem, but in the world and among its peoples. Their place is not to hide in fear, but to go in peace and spread the Word. Having given them His peace, and His purpose, He now gives them the power which they will need to carry out His divine will.

It is by the gift of the Holy Spirit that the disciples will be given the power to do God’s will. Without the Spirit to strengthen and guide them they would flounder in a hostile world; “he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Spirit is a gift, something to be received. The Holy Spirit cannot be taken, only received; the gift must be accepted or else rejected. In receiving this gift the disciples can; “go and make disciples of all the nations.”(Matthew 28:19) They have His peace, His purpose, and His power, in the measure they need to fulfil his commands.

If they are in any doubt as to this power, or indeed one of the central purposes of their mission, Jesus makes the mandate clear. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Just as His peace is given now to us, just as our mission to spread His Word exists now as it did for the disciples then, so the power of the Holy Spirit rests with us in the Church today. We all have different roles and functions within the Body of Christ, as both Scripture and Tradition make clear, but that we all have our part to play is certain. Just as Jesus lead the fearful and perplexed disciples into His peace, gave them a divine purpose here on earth, and granted them the power by which they could accomplish His will; so too does He grant us this life-giving privilege today. We can bolt the doors to our rooms and our hearts, or we can receive His gifts and spread the Truth of Him that stands among us.

Graham Hunt OP

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