The apostles of Jesus were living in fear of the Jews. It was only when Our Risen Lord appeared on them and breathed on them the Holy Spirit that they were transformed from their fearfulness and anxieties into one of Peace and Joy. There are different aspects of today’s Gospel account that we can reflect on and relate to the concrete experiences of what we are experiencing daily.
As believers and disciples of Jesus, some of us may be thinking that as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, should we all not also be experiencing deep peace that Jesus bestowed on His apostles in the upper room - regardless of what we are encountering in our lives? Shouldn’t this “Peace” of our Risen Lord dispel the darkness, anxieties and fears of our lives, as it did to the apostles of Jesus?
However, if we reflect on the Gospel account more carefully, we should not forget that amongst the apostles, was Thomas, one of the Twins, who was not present when Jesus appeared to the other apostles. While the other apostles were filled with Joy of having seen the Risen Christ, Thomas could not believe what they told him. So, he insisted that “unless I see the holes they nails made in His hands and unless I can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it seems to me that if we are not experiencing the deep “Peace” of Jesus, even though Jesus has Risen, then perhaps, would we not be tempted to be like doubting Thomas? Would we also not insist on wanting to see the physical presence of Jesus before we believe in our Risen Lord? And what was Jesus response to Thomas? “Thomas, you believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”
We may wish to reflect on this further and ask, “What about a holy woman like Mother Teresa, who was so close to God? Did she not experience the deep Peace of the Risen Christ constantly in her life? Should we not expect this of her since she believed in the Resurrection of Christ? Some of you may be surprised to hear the answer. In 1961, Mother Teresa wrote to Archbishop Perier of Calcutta and shared with him, “There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God; so deep that it is painful; suffering continual, and yet not wanted by God: repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal. Souls hold no attraction: heaven means nothing to me; it looks like an empty place; the thought of it means nothing to me, and yet this torturing longing for God. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His; so He has every right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody even to God . . . I want to smile even at Jesus and so hide if possible the pain and the darkness of my soul even from Him,”
However, when Archbishop Perier replied to Mother Teresa’s sharing of her spiritual struggles, he wrote, “With regard to the feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, of not being wanted, of darkness of the soul, it is a state well known by spiritual writers and directors of conscience.
This is willed by God in order to attach us to Him alone, an antidote to our external activities, and also, like temptation, a way of keeping us humble in the midst of applauses, publicity, praises, appreciation, etc. and success. To feel that we are nothing, that we can do nothing is the realization of a fact. We know it, we say it, some feel it. That is why stick to God and like the little Bernadette at the end of her last retreat before she died wrote: God alone, God everywhere, God in everybody and in everything, God always.
Theresa Borchard, a spiritual writer who spent a week with Mother Teresa and her Sisters in 1994 wrote, “I stood beside her for about two hours as we distributed Christmas gifts to orphaned children. I sensed a sadness in her. But her light overshadowed it. Unlike a person wrapped in severe depression, wearing the expression of despair, she exuded light and hope. When she prayed, her deep love for God was visible, even contagious. This saint who is in darkness has much to teach me about how to live with inner anguish.
I’m not sure how she (Mother Teresa) was able to regard her times of spiritual agony as the meeting place for she and God, or how she appreciated her pain in order to bring souls to God . . . and most importantly, how all of our suffering can be used for the good.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, to experience the inner “Peace” of the Risen Christ does not mean that we have to be filled with the “Peace of Christ” all the time as though all our problems in life are all wiped away, just because Jesus has Risen from His Death.
The “Peace” of the Risen Christ is the Spirit of Jesus within us that is there to guide us, empower us, lead us and enlighten us with God’s Wisdom to live the Christ-like life daily. Like Mother Teresa, this “Peace” of the Risen Christ can be found at the core of our pains and darkness in life. St Ignatius would explain that even if God seems distant from us, He has not and will never abandon us. We will be able to experience His Consoling Presence of Peace and Joy, if we hold on to our faith and wait patiently for His return.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, we need to constantly pray to have the wisdom of Christ to persevere in our faith and hold on to God regardless of the trials and tribulations we may be called to encounter. This is how Mary remained faithful in her obedience to the Father’s Will. Her fidelity to God’s Will gave her the “Joy” to “evangelise” and to make God known through her daily witness.
When we believe in Christ’s Resurrection, we believe that through His Death and Resurrection, He has conquered death as our Savour and Lord. Christ has opened the gates of heaven that all who believe and obey His Commandments will gain eternal life. It is fidelity to such faith in Our Risen Christ that we will then experience both the “Peace” and the Joy of living the Gospel, and the increased zeal to continue to live and serve and evangelise to God’s people regardless of the trials and suffering we may experience in life, like Mother Teresa. Our Risen Lord is inviting you and I to open our minds and hearts to the gift of His “Peace and Joy.” What is our response to Him?
Ref: Beyond Blue – A Spiritual Journey into mental health, by Theresa Borchard.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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