In the Shoes of Peter, John, and Thomas (Reflections from Today’s Gospel)

I woke up at 4 AM.  I didn’t plan on it; my year-old son was stirring and I helped him get back to sleep.  But then I was wide awake.  Seriously? I thought.  This has been happening so often lately.  Once a week for the last month or so I’ve been wide awake for hours in the middle of the night.  Part of being a young dad, I guess.  My mind goes a million miles an hour.  I tried to pray and calm myself down.  This time it didn’t work.  Alright, Lord.  I can hear the birds chirping and I can see dawn rising.  Should I fight to sleep or just get up and make a coffee?  Today I chose to get up and begin the day.  

I got up, grabbed a coffee, and turned to the Scriptures.  I opened up to the reading from St. John’s Gospel for Pentecost Mass.  The scene is Easter Sunday evening.  The disciples are hiding, afraid.  Their Master has just been crucified the worst criminal’s death, two days prior.  Everything they knew, all the dreams they had, fell apart that day and came down crashing.  Now they are hiding together, lost, aimless.

Jesus came and stood among them… (Jn 20.19)

Jesus came and stood among them.  Jesus came.  He came.  The doors were locked, but He came.  I imagined what it would feel like if Christ showed up in my living room as I drank my coffee and opened the Scriptures.  Then I placed myself in the shoes of Peter, John, and Thomas.  I pictured what it would have been like to be in the room.

Peter: When He showed up in that room, I was speechless.  So many emotions were stirred up, I didn’t even know where to begin.  I trembled with fear.  Not only was a dead man standing, eyes wide open, in front of me, but this standing dead man was the one I previously called “Lord” and then just three days ago, I pretended I never knew.  When He got arrested, I felt it was over.  Everything was over.  This whole “Kingdom of God” thing we were building was over.  He was our Master and now… a criminal?  When they asked if I knew Him, I told them they were barking up the wrong tree.  

Now He’s in front of me.  I ran to Him and fell to my knees.  If I could’ve spoken I would have begged forgiveness but I couldn’t even form the words.  He just put His hands on my shoulders.  We just breathed.  Simon, He whispered.  Lord, I whispered back, voice trembling.  Forgive… me…  I choked.  I forgive you, He answered.  I will never abandon you.  How many times have I come through for you?  Remember the fish I provided when you could catch none?  Remember all the miracles?  Have I ever let you down?  Trust in me…  Yes, Lord.  What was I thinking?  Thank you for this second chance…

John: The Lord is alive!  The Lord is alive!  I knew He was up to something, even when everything seemed terrible on Friday.  I followed Him up that horrible hill and watched Him hang from the Cross naked.  I heard His last words.  I heard Him cry out to His Father.  He entrusted His Mother to me at that moment.  I was so honoured and yet confused.  Where was this all headed?  What happened to the amazing community we were building up?  Will death be the last word?  I struggled, but deep down I believed.  I had no rational arguments to explain it, but I just trusted Him.  And now here He is, alive.  I cannot contain this joy.  I ran to Him and He gave me the biggest bear hug.  He held me tight for so long.  I put my head on His chest and could feel His Heart beating.  He breathed the Holy Spirit on me, and I knew there would be a great adventure up ahead.  There would be trials, but I would always have this faithful friend. 

Thomas: I wasn’t with them on that first Sunday.  I was taking care of other business.  I heard whispers about the tomb being empty, but when I reached the other disciples and they told me their account, I could not believe them.  He was dead.  Even though I hid during that horrible Friday afternoon, it was a public execution.  The whole town was talking about it.  They even pierced His side to make sure He was dead.  And now they expect me to believe He’s alive?  A week later, He showed up a second time, and this time I was with them.  He looked right at me.  Put your finger here; see my hands, He said.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  I trembled.  I was paralyzed.  He gave me another look, which meant, Come on, Thomas.  It’s really Me.  I slowly walked over and reached out my hand.  I felt the hole in His palm.  I even stuck my hand in the hole in His side.  It was so real.  So concrete.  So... fleshy.  He could have been angry with me for doubting, but instead, He kept chasing after me.  He gave me another chance.  There would be moments later when I would not see or feel His presence.  But at this moment, He told me to look, touch.  Encounter.  I cannot contain this joy.  I can’t keep this good news to myself.  I have to share it… 

I’m grateful God allowed me to wake up at 4 AM.  It gave me extra time in my busy family life to meet Him.  This Pentecost, I’m wide awake to His presence.  I won’t always feel it or always have this clarity, but these encounters bring me back to basics, to His faithful abiding.  They keep me rooted.