John 20:19-31
Victory in Christ
by Rev. Jack Peterson YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again.  "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."  But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." 

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and he said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

On a recent Friday during Lent, the University of Maryland Baltimore County made college basketball history when they defeated the University of Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This was the first time in tournament history that a No. 16 seed defeated a  No. 1 seed. In the days following this historic victory, UMBC staff and alumni were quoted in the media, expressing their love for the university and their enthusiasm over their monumental win. Their association with the university gave them a tangible and passionate connection to the victor.

During Easter, Christians remember a vastly more important victory. By Jesus’ humble, loving surrender of His life to the Father while hanging on a tree and by His glorious springing to life three days later, Our Lord conquered mankind’s greatest enemies: sin, Satan and death. Jesus crushed the competition. It was a monstrous defeat. It was a glorious victory.

At Easter, Christians share in the joy and enthusiasm of Christ’s victory. Our baptism and our faith in Jesus unite us to Him in a most special way. St. John, in his first letter to early Christians, proclaims to believers of every age, “And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

There is something very different about the participation of a Christian in the victory of Christ — it is much more profound than an alumni’s share in the victory of their alma mater’s sports team. We do not just share in the enthusiasm of a victory that took place on a basketball court; rather, Christians share in the definitive fruits of Christ’s victory. There are many fruits; today, I would like to highlight two of them.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead makes available to us the gift of a deep and abiding peace. On Easter Sunday night, Jesus greets the Twelve Apostles twice with the salutation, “Peace be with you.” God’s peace is a particular fruit of the Resurrection.

The greatest enemies of peace in our hearts are sin, suffering and death. Belief in the Resurrection restores peace to the soul because the Resurrection proclaims that God’s love is greater than the world’s selfishness and hatred; God’s gift of life is more powerful than the pangs of death; and God’s amazing mercy is deeper than the depths of man’s sin. To truly believe in Jesus Christ is to discover an irreplaceable peace that abides deep in the heart.

Through the gift of the empty tomb, we are also given the gift of God’s limitless mercy. Pope John Paul II designated the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. He did so in part because Jesus, the night of the Resurrection, bestowed upon the Twelve Apostles another sacrament — the grace of representing Him as bishops and extending His forgiveness to a sinful and hurting world: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

Additionally, Pope John Paul II made this designation because He shared the inspiration of St. Faustina Kowalska. The Lord mystically appeared to her in the 1930s and asked her to be an instrument through which He would spread devotion to His Divine Mercy. He spoke to her in beautiful ways about how He wishes to bestow this great gift to every corner of the world.

He revealed to her a powerful image that has become rather well-known. It displays a gentle, welcoming Christ with rays of light emanating from His heart, symbolizing the blood and water that flowed from His side while He was on the cross. They are a font of healing graces for sinners who turn to Him with trust.

On one occasion, the Lord spoke these words to St. Faustina: “My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy…Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sin be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.”

Celebrate the victory of Christ this Easter with minds and hearts renewed by the mercy and peace that Christ alone brings to our world.

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