Acts 4:32-35; I John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
“This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with water only but with the water and the blood.And the Spirit is the one that testifies.”
Why, my brothers and sisters, does St John insist so much on the water and the blood?He mentions it, and then pulls out the cannons and says this is testified to by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who is truth.
Do you remember when we were listening to the Passion Gospel of St John on Good Friday? The same sort of thing occurred.Blood and water flowed from the opened side of Jesus on the cross, and John thought this of such significance that he added with all energy and vigor: “He who saw this has testified so that you may believe.His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.”
Our belief, our faith, is the central theme in our present passage as in the one in the Gospel.John is doing all he can to bring us to this faith in Jesus. For it is only in this faith that we can overcome the world.So how can the water and the blood help us to come to such a faith?
The most important thing to recall is that, for John, Jesus is both divine and human.Most commentators see in the water and the blood in our phrase the proof of Jesus’ humanity.Jesus has truly come, not just as the divine son of God, but as a true human being.He was baptized in the water of the Jordan and so shows his humanity.But that was not all.For he came also in the blood: the gift of his life as he died a bloody death on the cross.And from this dying humanity we are brought into new life, into a new creation.For blood and water are given center stage again on the cross.As we saw throughout this year’s celebration of our redemption, it is the wounds of Jesus that are the well-springs of salvation.From the wound in the side of Jesus flow out blood and water.Here the blood and water are the symbols of the great sacraments of the church: baptism and the Eucharist.Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross can be the birth of the Church precisely because it is there we are called to recognize in his wounds his great victory.Jesus is glorified for St John precisely in his giving up of his life.“In this is the Father glorified, that I lay down my life.”Jesus’ victory comes in and through his wounds, and that is why he keeps these wounds for all eternity.And those wounds come to play a most important part in today’s Gospel.
Thomas is called the doubter.He is called the man from Missouri.Show me, he demands.I want to place my hands in his side, in those wounds.Jesus grants him his request.Come, Thomas, he says.Put your fingers into my hands and your hand into my side.And when he does this, what happens?Belief.Faith.The great affirmation:“My Lord and my God.”He recognizes in the wounds Jesus’ victory.Jesus’ victory comes through his wounds.Our victory comes though faith in these saving wounds.
Did you notice that in the first appearance in today’s Gospel when Thomas was not with them, it says the disciples were overjoyed to see their Lord.It does not say they believed.It has been left to Thomas to proclaim this loud and clear.The Gospel writer has done this very deliberately.Thomas’ words are the strongest affirmation of faith in John’s Gospel – the point toward which the whole of the Gospel has been leading.Just as John’s Gospel began with the affirmation of Jesus’ divinity and humanity: “The Word was God….The Word became flesh,” so too, it ends with this same double affirmation of Jesus as Lord and God.
My brothers and sisters, each one of us is called to this experience of Thomas.He is not called “the twin” for biological reasons.We are his twin, each one of us.We too doubt and disbelieve.We too are slow to respond to those who have seen the Lord.As Jesus said to him, so he says to us:“Do not doubt, but believe.”Let us look at the water and the blood, let us touch his wounds in the sacrament of the altar, and let us cry out: “My Lord and my God.”To take part in this sacred liturgy, to hear God’s Word, and not to respond to the God who makes himself present among us, is to miss the whole sense of what it is all about.
Indeed, this has happened to us today, my brothers and sisters, for the Gospel we heard is the very presence of Jesus among us and the words we heard and the actions they describe were said and done for us, the living.They are not a description of what happened to the disciples 2000 years ago.
And to make all this even more actual and profound, Jesus comes and stands among us under the forms of bread and wine and offers himself for our salvation.Let us approach in awe and wonder to receive anew this great gift of faith, this victory that overcomes the world.