Divine Mercy Sunday (C)

///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday

///John 20:1-9 – Empty Tomb – Easter Sunday

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Homilies | John 20:19-31

The Context

Gospel commentary excerpts from a variety of sources.
Click on links to view original source material.
      Matthew Mark Luke John

148 Empty tomb resurrection appearance 28:2–8 16:2–8 24:2–12 20:1–13
149 Mary  Magdala in the Garden resurrection appearance 28:9–10 16:9–11 24:1–8 20:14–16
150 Noli me tangere resurrection appearance 20:17–17
151 Road to Emmaus appearance resurrection appearance 24:13–32

152 Resurrected Jesus appears to Apostles resurrection appearance 16:9–12 24:36–43 20:19–20
153 Great Commission resurrection appearance 28:16–20 16:14–18
154 Doubting Thomas resurrection appearance 20:24–29

155 Catch of 153 fish resurrection appearance / miracle 21:1–24
156 Ascension of Jesus resurrection appearance 16:19 24:50–53
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New creation in Christ

DR. KIERAN O’MAHONY  New creation in Christ is reflected in the lay-out of this Gospel, which starts with an echo of Gen 1:1. Jesus’ last words on the cross are an echo of Gen 2:2. John 20:1 explicitly recalls Gen 1:1 again and in the breathing Gen 2:7 is echoed… A new creation in Christ is a strong early Christian experience and proclamation. (cf. Galatians 6:15, 2Corinthians 5:17, 1Peter 1:3)

The reign of God’s compassion

The Disciples’ Fear (v 19a)

The doors were locked


19a the same. Mar. 16:14. Lu. 24:36–49. 1 Co. 15:5. when. ver. 26. Ne. 6:10, 11. came. ch. 14:19–23; 16:22. Mat. 18:20.


Evening of the first day of the week

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – It is Sunday afternoon of the day Jesus arose from the dead.  The next day for the Jews began at sundown, so evening was in the mid-to-late afternoon for the Jews.  The time is probably about 3 PM, the time of the afternoon hour of prayer, the beginning of the afternoon liturgical Tamid worship service at the Temple, and the hour of Jesus’ death on the Cross on Friday (Mt 27:45-50; Mk 15:33-41; Lk 23:44-49).

Jesus came and stood in their midst

SERMON WRITERThe locked doors reflect the fear of the disciples, but will also demonstrate the power of the risen Christ, who can be contained neither by a rock tomb nor a locked door.

Disciples Comforted (v. 19b-20)

“Peace be with you”


19b Peace. John 20:21; ch. 14:27; 16:33. Ps. 85:8–10. Is. 57:18, 19. Mat. 10:13. Lu. 24:36. Ro. 15:33. Ep. 2:14; 6:23. Phi. 1:2. 2 Th. 3:16. He. 7:2. Re. 1:4.

20 he shewed. John 20:27. Lu. 24:39, 40. 1 Jno. 1:1. Then. ch. 16:22. Is. 25:8, 9. Mat. 28:8. Lu. 24:41.


The concept of the Jewish shalom

SERMON WRITER – To these frightened disciples, Jesus gives his peace, even as he has promised (John 14:27). The disciples will have peace in spite of persecution by a world that will hate them even as it hates Jesus (John 15:18-25). While this text uses the Greek word for peace, eirene, the concept is the Jewish shalom—more than the absence of conflict—a wholeness that is the gift of God. Eirene (peace) is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It has its roots in the peace that we have with God, who has granted us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2a).



AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Jesus’ greeting to the disciples, “Peace be with you,” is the customary greeting of the Jews.  These are the very words the priest uses at Mass as he stands in “persona Christi,” in the Person of Christ, as he greets the congregation.

He showed them
his hands and his side

Mystery of Christ’s resurrected body

SERMON WRITER – There is mystery here—Jesus’ resurrected body is, at the same time, like ours and not like ours. Paul speaks of the resurrection body as imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). However, we must not press the word “spiritual” too far, because Jesus’ body is also clearly physical. The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that the person who stands before them, alive and well, is the same person who was so recently crucified.

Christ’s  glorified wounds

BISHOP FRANK SCHUSTER –  St. Faustina had a vision of the Risen Lord. St. Faustina’s vision of the Risen Lord has a remarkable display of what glorified wounds mean. From the side of Christ, water and blood shine out like rays of the sun. The water represents the water of Baptism and the blood represents Holy Eucharist. In St. Faustina’s diary about the origin of this Feastday, Jesus told her

“…tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon the souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet…. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy”. (Diary 699)

Jesus’ wounds are “trophies” of his victory

Disciples Commissioned (v 21-23)

“As the Father has sent me,
so I send you”


21 Peace.  John 14:27. as. ch. 13:20; 17:18, 19; 21:15–17. Is. 61:1–3. Mat. 10:16, 40; 28:18–20. Mar. 16:15–18. Lu. 24:47–49. Ac. 1:8. 2 Ti. 2:2. He. 3:1.

22 he breathed. Ge. 2:7. Job 33:4. Ps. 33:6. Eze. 37:9. Receive. ch. 14:16; 15:26; 16:7. Ac. 2:4, 38; 4:8; 8:15; 10:47; 19:2. Ga. 3:2.

23 Mat. 16:19; 18:18. Mar. 2:5–10. Ac. 2:38; 10:43; 13:38, 39. 1 Co. 5:4. 2 Co. 2:6–10. Ep. 2:20. 1 Ti. 1:20.


The passing of the baton

SERMON WRITER – John 17:21 is the Johannine equivalent of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). It reflects the principle that the authority of the one who is sent is the same as the authority of the one who sent him—the king’s emissary speaks with the authority of the king. God is present in the work of Jesus; Jesus will be present in the work of the disciples. It is a passing of the baton—the designation of succession.

SERMON WRITER – John 17:23  is reminiscent of Matthew 16:19 in which Jesus tells Peter, “whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Matthew 18:18 gives the same authority to the disciples in a context having to do with the resolution of church conflict.

The gift of the Spirit

SERMON WRITER – Sending these disciples into the world alone would be futile, so Jesus prepares them by breathing on them—or breathing into them (Greek: enephusesen). Just as God breathed into man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7—LXX), Jesus breathes into the disciples the Spirit of life. This gift of the Spirit renews the life of these disciples just as Godly breath gave new life to the bones of the dead (Ezekiel 37:9). They have been afraid and confused—hidden in a locked room to escape danger. Now they find strength to stand up, unlock the door, go outside, and begin their proclamation.


SERMON WRITER – How can we reconcile this giving of the Spirit with the account of Pentecost in Acts 2?

  • Some scholars say that the two accounts are irreconcilable and that verse 22 is the Johannine Pentecost.
  • Others, noting the lack of a definite article—Jesus says, “Receive Holy Spirit!” rather than “Receive the Holy Spirit!”—believe that the disciples received something less than the full gift of the Spirit on this occasion.
  • Others say that John knows of Pentecost, but writes the story this way “because of his peculiar theological vision that tightly ties the descent of the Spirit to Jesus’ death/ exaltation” (Carson, 651).
  • Still others say, “It is false alike to the New Testament and to Christian experience to maintain that there is but one gift of the Spirit…. John tells of one gift of the Spirit and Luke of another” (Morris, 748).
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The breath of God


SOURCE: James Wetzstein, Lutheran pastor.

Significance of Jesus breathing on disciples

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – It is an action that recalls the breath of life God breathed into Adam and Eve in the first Creation.  In Hebrew and Greek, the word for “breath” or “wind” is the same word as “spirit.”

  • God first breathed His Spirit into Adam to give him physical life, and now
  • Christ breathes His Spirit into the Apostles to give them spiritual life.

He is sending them forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit: the Person of the Most Holy Trinity who will make all things “new” again just as He did in the first creation (see Gen 1:2).



AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – With these words, Jesus pronounces the ordination of the Magisterium of the Universal Church.  He is sending them with the power and the authority of God the Father (John 20:21).  Jesus’ words “Receive the Holy Spirit” in the Greek text is missing the article “the.”  He gives His Apostles the gift that the rest of the New Covenant Church will receive at the Feast of Pentecost… Man, formally dead to sin, has been resurrected in Christ, and this faithful remnant of the Old Israel has become the nucleus of the New Israel, the New Covenant Universal [Catholic] Church that will become an immense army of disciples converting the world through the spread of the Gospel.

Thomas’ Disbelief (v 24-27)

“Unless I see… and put my finger into the nail marks…


24 Thomas. John 11:16; 14:5; 21:2. Mat. 10:3. was. ch. 6:66, 67. Mat. 18:20. He. 10:25.

25 We. John 20:14–20; ch. 1:41; 21:7. Mar. 16:11. Lu. 24:34–40. Ac. 5:30–32; 10:40, 41. 1 Co. 15:5–8. Except. ver. 20; ch. 6:30. Job 9:16. Ps. 78:11–22, 32; 95:8–10; 106:21–24. Mat. 16:1–4; 27:42. Lu. 24:25, 39–41. He. 3:12, 18, 19; 4:1, 2; 10:38, 39.

26 eight. John 20:19. Mat. 17:1. Lu. 9:28. Thomas. ver. 24. Peace. ver. 19. Is. 26:12; 27:5; 54:10.

27 Reach hither thy finger. John 20:25. Ps. 78:38; 103:13, 14. Ro. 5:20. 1 Ti. 1:14–16. 1 Jno. 1:1, 2. reach hither thy hand. 1 Jno. 1:1. and be. Mat. 17:17. Mar. 9:19. Lu. 9:41. 1 Ti. 1:14.



Thomas wasn’t the only one who doubted

SERMON WRITER – Thomas does not believe the disciples, but neither did the disciples believe Mary. They were a despondent, defeated people until they saw Jesus with their own eyes. Thomas was not the sole doubter and will not remain a doubter. He doubts the witness of the other disciples and so cannot believe the resurrection. Once he sees what they have seen, he will manifest great faith.

Jesus’ invitation

SERMON WRITER – Jesus does not condemn Thomas for his failure to believe, but gives him that which enables him to believe (v. 27). Thomas has demanded to see and touch the risen Lord, and Jesus allows him to do that. There is no indication that Thomas actually touches Jesus’ wounds. Seeing the wounded, resurrected Christ is enough.

Hands or wrist?

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – For those concerned with the question of whether the nails were in Jesus’ hands or wrists, Fr. Raymond Brown (The Gospel According to John) points out that both the Greek and Hebrew words for “hand” includes the wrist as part of the hand.

Clipart by Fr. Richard Lonsdale © 2000. Click image to view more clipart for this Sunday.


The Truth of Jesus’ Presence

In the gap between the words we say and the way we live

FR. GEORGE SMIGA – Thomas doubted because if Jesus had been raised up, if the apostles had been sent out to the world, what were they still doing huddled in that upper room?  If Jesus had been raised up, if the apostles had been given a mission to the world, if the Spirit had descended upon them in power, then what were they still doing here?  Why hadn’t they left?  Why wasn’t there a greater change in their lives?


We say to our spouse or to a close friend, “I love you.”  Perhaps we even remember anniversaries and birthdays.  But what are our actions?  Do we really listen to others and try to understand the way that they are growing and changing?  Do we try to understand their fears and their dreams?  Do we at times set aside things that are important for us to make room for them?  Unless our actions support our words, the words “I love you” can ring empty and false.


We say that we are proud of our children, that we would do anything for them.  But how do our actions play out?  Do we take the time to be involved in our children’s lives?  Do we understand what they need?  Do we have the courage to say “no” when it’s necessary, but also see the new talents and gifts they are developing. Do we affirm that growth?  Unless our actions support our words, the words “I am proud of you” can come across without authority.


We say we believe in Jesus’ resurrection and that he has saved us from our sins.  But how do our lives appear?  Are we joyful?  Are we generous?  Are we thankful?  We can proclaim with our mouths that Christ is risen, but if our lives appear glum and greedy and self-absorbed, who will believe us?  Who will understand the truth of what we say?

Thomas’ Belief (v 28-29)

“My Lord and my God!”


28 My Lord. John20: 16, 31; John 5:23; 9:35–38. Ps. 45:6, 11; 102:24–28; 118:24–28. Is. 7:14; 9:6; 25:9; 40:9–11. Je. 23:5, 6. Mal. 3:1. Mat. 14:33. Lu. 24:52. Ac. 7:59, 60. 1 Ti. 3:16. Re. 5:9–14.

29 blessed. John 8; John 4:48. Lu. 1:45. 2 Co. 5:7. He. 11:1, 27, 39. 1 Pe. 1:8.

B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.), 81.


From doubter to believer

SERMON WRITER – In response, Thomas makes this great confession of faith, which goes far beyond any titles or confessions found elsewhere in this Gospel. The greatest doubter has become the greatest believer.

Repentance: Peter and Thomas vs. Judas

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – The literal translation is “the Lord of me and the God of me.”  Both Peter and Thomas knew how to humble themselves and repent.  Judas was lost because he would not repent and turn to Christ.  Thomas’ profession of faith is one of the most powerful statements affirming the deity of Jesus in Sacred Scripture!

Faith comes in different ways

SERMON WRITER – This Gospel shows us that there are different kinds of faith, and that faith comes in different ways and with differing intensities to different people.

  • The beloved disciple believes upon seeing the empty tomb (v. 8).
  • Mary believes when the Lord calls her name (v. 16).
  • The disciples must see the risen Lord (v. 20).
  • Thomas says that he must touch Jesus’ wounds (v. 25)—although that need seems to evaporate once he sees the risen Christ (v. 28).
  • People have differing needs and find various routes to faith. It is instructive to note that Thomas believed, lost faith, and then returned to even greater faith.


All or Nothing

Catholicism not a cafeteria-style religion

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – How many times have we been guilty of the same unbelief when we reject the teaching of Mother Church in favor of expediency, self-interests, or secular values and morals?  How many Catholics in government have used the excuse that the Church must be separated from the State and since the law of the State allows abortion, how can they stand against it?  Do they need to see the nails in His hands?  How many of us question the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the perpetual virginity of His blessed mother?  Do we need to see the wound in His side?  To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept all that He taught and to be obedient to the teachings of His Church.  There is no such animal as a “liberal Catholic.”  Liberal and conservative are political terms.  There are orthodox, true doctrine Catholics or there are bad Catholics.  Catholicism is not a cafeteria-style religion.  It is an all or nothing religion.  Place your finger in His wounds and like Thomas cry out “My Lord and My God!

Jesus’ Observation (v 29)

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


3 Luke 24:12.

4 outrun. 2 Sa. 18:23. Le. 13:30. 1 Co. 9:24. 2 Co. 8:12.


Jesus’ final beatitude

SERMON WRITER – This is Jesus’ final beatitude or blessing. This Greek word makarios (blessed) is the same word that Jesus used in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). The blessings that he pronounced there were the kingdom of Heaven (v. 3), comfort (v. 4), inheritance (v. 5), being filled (v. 6), mercy (v. 7), seeing God (v. 8), being called the children of God (v. 9), and heavenly rewards (vv. 10-12).

These words will encourage early Christians who will feel cheated, having missed seeing Jesus by only a few months or years. They also encourage us, who are among those who have not seen but who have believed. The few first-generation Christians who saw Jesus in person have no advantage over the many later-generations of Christians who have not. Note that Jesus does not say that these later Christians will be more blessed than the “seeing” disciples, but only that they will be blessed.

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Hebrews 11:1 records that Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen (NJB).   Thomas’ faith would have had more merit if he had accepted the testimony of the other Apostles instead of the exceptional proof he received through seeing and touching Jesus’ wounds.  St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17).  It is that same preaching of Christ passed from the Apostles down to us in the Church today.  When we accept the testimony of the Apostles, we must not only profess belief but put what we believe into practice by our actions.  Jesus’ statement Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed is a benediction our Lord pronounced on all the future generations of believers!


Related Page: Discussion Questions

CROSS REFERENCES SOURCE: B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.).

With Great Power Comes
Great Responsibility

Gregory the Great: It is pleasant to observe the disciples, lifted up to a height of glory equal to the burden of humility to which they were called. You see how they not only acquire peace of mind concerning themselves but even receive the power of releasing others from their bonds. They share in the right of divine judgment so that as God’s vicars they may withhold forgiveness of sins from some and grant it to others. So it was fitting that only those who had consented to be humbled for the sake of God be raised up by him. Those who feared God’s strict judgment were made judges of hearts. Those who were themselves fearful of being condemned condemn some and set others free. Their place in the church is now held by the bishops. Those who obtain the position of governing receive authority to loose and to bind. It is a great honor, but the burden is heavy. In truth it is difficult for one who does not know how to exercise control over his own life to become the judge of someone else’s life. FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 26.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 20:19-25

19. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) The disciples, when they heard what Mary told them, were obliged either to disbelieve, or, if they believed, to grieve that He did not count them worthy to have the sight of Him. He did not let them however pass a whole day in such reflections, but in the midst of their longing trembling desires to see Him, presented Himself to them: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.

BEDE. Wherein is shewn the infirmity of the Apostles. They assembled with doors shut, through that same fear of the Jews, which had before scattered them: Came Jesus, and stood in the midst. He came in the evening, because they would be the most afraid at that time.

THEOPHYLACT. Or because He waited till all were assembled: and with shut doors, that he might shew how that in the very same way he had risen again, i. e. with the stone lying on the scpulchre.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. cx. et cl. Pasch. aliquid simile.) Some are strongly indisposed to believe this miracle, and argue thus: If the same body rose again, which hung upon the Cross, how could that body enter through shut doors? But if thou comprehendest the mode, it is no miracle: when reason fails, then is faith edified.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxx) The shut door did not hinder the body, wherein Divinity resided. He could enter without open doors, who was born without a violation of His mother’s virginity.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) It is wonderful that they did not think him a phantom. But Mary had provided against this, by the faith she had wrought in them. And He Himself too shewed Himself so openly, and strengthened their wavering minds by His voice: And saith unto them, Peace he unto you, i. e. Be not disturbed. Wherein too He reminds them of what He had said before His crucifixion; My peace I give to you; (c. 14:27; 16:33) and again, In Me ye shall have peace.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi. in Evang.) And because their faith wavered even with the material body before them, He shewed them His hands and side: And when He had said this, He shewed them His hands and His side.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) The nails had pierced His hands, the lance had pierced His side. For the healing of doubting hearts, the marks of the wounds were still preserved.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) And what He had promised before the crucifixion, I shall see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, is now fulfilled: Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei.) The glory, wherewith the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, i. e. in Christ’s body, we must believe to have been rather veiled than not to have been there at all. He accommodated His presence to man’s weak sight, and presented Himself in such form, as that His disciple could look at and recognise Him.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) All these things brought them to a most confident faith. As they were in endless war with the Jews, He says again, Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you.

BEDE. A repetition is a confirmation: whether He repeats it because the grace of love is twofold, or because He it is who made of twain one.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 3) At the same time He shews the efficacy of the cross, by which He undoes all evil things, and gives all good things; which is peace. To the women above there was announced joy; for that sex was in sorrow, and had received the curse, In sorrow shalt thou bring forth. (Gen. 3:16) All hindrances then being removed, and every thing made straight, (πατωρθωται.) he adds, As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxii. in Evang.) The Father sent the Son, appointed Him to the work of redemption. He says therefore, As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you; i. e. I love you, now that I send you to persecution, with the same love wherewith My Father loved Me, when He sent Me to My sufferings.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) We have learnt that the Son is equal to the Father: here He shews Himself Mediator; He Me, and I you.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 2) Having then given them confidence by His own miracles, and appealing to Him who sent Him, He uses a prayer to the Father, but of His own authority gives them power: And when He had said thus, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

AUGUSTINE. (iv. de Trin. c. xx) That corporeal breath was not the substance of the Holy Ghost, but to shew, by meet symbol, that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father, but the Son. For who would be so mad as to say, that it was one Spirit which He gave by breathing, and another which He sent after His ascension?

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) But why is He first given to the disciples on earth, and afterwards sent from heaven? Because there are two commandments of love, to love God, and to love our neighbour. The spirit to love our neighbour is given on earth, the spirit to love God is given from heaven. As then love is one, and there are two commandments; so the Spirit is one, and there are two gifts of the Spirit. And the first is given by our Lord while yet upon earth, the second from heaven, because by the love of our neighbour we learn how to arrive at the love of God.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi) Some say that by breathing He did not give them the Spirit, but made them meet to receive the Spirit. For if Daniel’s senses were so overpowered by the sight of the Angel, how would they have been overwhelmed in receiving that unutterable gift, if He had not first prepared them for it! It would not be wrong however to say that they received then the gift of a certain spiritual power, not to raise the dead and do miracles, but to remit sins: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi. 3) The love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it; but retains the sins of those who do not. Where then He has said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) We must understand that those who first received the Holy Ghost, for innocence of life in themselves, and preaching to a few others, received it openly after the resurrection, that they might profit not a few only, but many. The disciples who were called to such works of humility, to what a height of glory are they led! Lo, not only have they salvation for themselves, but are admitted1 to the powers of the supreme Judgment-seat; so that, in the place of God, they retain some men’s sins, and remit others. Their place in the Church, the Bishops now hold; who receive the authority to bind, when they are admitted to the rank of government. Great the honour, but heavy the burden of the place. It is ill if one who knows not how to govern his own life, shall be judge of another’s.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvi. 4) A priest though he may have ordered well his own life, yet, if he have not exercised proper vigilance over others, is sent to hell with the evil doers. Wherefore, knowing the greatness of their danger, pay them all respect, even though they be not men of notable goodness. For they who are in rule, should not be judged by those who are under them. And their incorrectness of life will not at all invalidate what they do by commission from God. For not only cannot a priest, but not even angel or archangel, do any thing of themselves; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do all. The priest only furnishes the tongue, and the hand. For it were not just that the salvation of those who come to the Sacraments in faith, should be endangered by another’s wickedness. (Hom. lxxxvii. 1). At the assembly of the disciples all were present but Thomas, who probably had not returned from the dispersion: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

ALCUIN. Didymus, double or doubtful, because he doubted in believing: Thomas, depth, because with most sure faith he penetrated into the depth of our Lord’s divinity.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The Divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith, than the belief of the other disciples; for, the touch by which he is brought to believe, confirming our minds in belief, beyond all question.

BEDE. But why does this Evangelist say that Thomas was absent, when Luke writes that two disciples on their return from Emmaus found the eleven assembled? We must understand that Thomas had gone out, and that in the interval of his absence, Jesus came and stood in the midst.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii. 1) As to believe directly, (ἁπλῶς) and any how, is the mark of too easy a mind, so is too much enquiring of a gross one: and this is Thomas’s fault. For when the Apostle said, We have seen the Lord, he did not believe, not because he discredited them, but from an idea of the impossibility of the thing itself: The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. Being the grossest of all, he required the evidence of the grossest sense, viz. the touch, and would not even believe his eyes: for he does not say only, Except I shall see, but adds, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side.

Will Martyrs Retain Their Wounds?

Augustine: The love we bear for the blessed martyrs causes us—how, I do not know—to desire to see in the heavenly kingdom the marks that they received for the name of Christ. And possibly we shall see them. For this will not be a deformity but a mark of honor and will add luster to their appearance as well as a spiritual (if not a bodily) beauty.… For even though the blemishes of the body will not be found in any resurrected body, the evidences of virtue can hardly be called blemishes. CITY OF GOD 22.19.

SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Luke), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2005, Used with permission.

John 20:26-31

26. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you,

27. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) Consider the mercy of the Lord, how for the sake of one soul, He exhibits His wounds. And yet the disciples deserved credit, and He had Himself foretold the event. Notwithstanding, because one person, Thomas, would examine Him, Christ allowed him. But He did not appear to him immediately, but waited till the eighth day, in order that the admonition being given in the presence of the disciples, might kindle in him greater desire, and strengthen his faith for the future. And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

AUGUSTINE. (in Serm. Tap. ad Cat. ii. 8.) You ask; If He entered by the shut door, where is the nature of His body? (ubi est modus corporis.) And I reply; If He walked on the sea, where is the weight of His body? The Lord did that as the Lord; and did He, after His resurrection, cease to be the Lord?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii. 1) Jesus then comes Himself, and does not wait till Thomas interrogates Him. But to shew that He heard what Thomas said to the disciples, He uses the same words. And first He rebukes him; Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: secondly, He admonishes him; And be not faithless, but believing. Note how that before they receive the Holy Ghost faith wavers, but afterward is firm. We may wonder how an incorruptible body could retain the marks of the nails. But it was done in condescension; in order that they might be sure that it was the very person Who was crucified.

AUGUSTINE. (de Symb. ad Cat. ii. 8) He might, had He pleased, have wiped all spot and trace of wound from His glorified body; but He had reasons for retaining them. He shewed them to Thomas, who would not believe except he saw and touched; and He will shew them to His enemies, not to say, as He did to Thomas, Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed, but to convict them: Behold the Man whom ye crucified, see the wounds which ye inflicted, recognise the side which ye pierced, that it was by you, and for you, that it was opened, and yet ye cannot enter there.

AUGUSTINE. (xxii. Civ. Dei, xix) We are, as I know not how, afflicted with such love for the blessed martyrs, that we would wish in that kingdom to see on their bodies the marks of those wounds which they have borne for Christ’s sake. And perhaps we shall see them; for they will not have deformity, but dignity, and, though on the body, shine forth not with bodily, but with spiritual beauty (virtutis). Nor yet, if any of the limbs of martyrs have been cut off, shall they therefore appear without them in the resurrection of the dead; for it is said, There shall not an hair of your head perish. But if it be fit that in that new world, the traces of glorious wounds should still be preserved on the immortal flesh, in the places where the limbs were cut off there, though those same limbs withal be not lost but restored, shall the wounds appear. For though all the blemishes of the body shall then be no more, yet the evidences of virtue are not to be called blemishes.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) Our Lord gave that flesh to be touched which He had introduced through shut doors: wherein two wonderful, and, according to human reason, contradictory things appear, viz. that after the resurrection He had a body incorruptible, and yet palpable. For that which is palpable must be corruptible, and that which is incorruptible must be impalpable. But He shewed Himself incorruptible and yet palpable, to prove that His body after His resurrection was the same in nature as before, but different in glory.

GREGORY. (Mor. xii. 31) Our body also in that resurrection to glory will be subtle by means of the action of the Spirit, but palpable by its true nature, not, as Eutychius says, impalpable, and subtler than the winds and the air.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) Thomas saw and touched the man, and confessed the God whom he neither saw nor touched. By means of the one he believed the other undoubtingly: Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.

THEOPHYLACT. He who had been before unbelieving, after touching the body shewed himself the best divine; for he asserted the twofold nature and one Person of Christ; by saying, My Lord, the human nature, by saying, My God, the divine, and by joining them both, confessed that one and the same Person was Lord and God. Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) He saith not, Hast touched me, but, hast seen me; the sight being a kind of general sense, and put in the place often of the other four senses; as when we say, Hear, and see how well it sounds; smell, and see how sweet it smells; taste, and see how well it tastes; touch, and see how warm it is. Wherefore also our Lord says, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands. What is this but, Touch and see? And yet he had not eyes in his finger. He refers them both to seeing and to touching, when He says, Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed. Although it might be said, that the disciple did not dare to touch, what was offered to be touched.

GREGORY. (Hom. xxvi.) But when the Apostle says, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, (Heb. 11:1) it is plain that things which are seen, are objects not of faith, but of knowledge. Why then is it said to Thomas who saw and touched, Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed? Because he saw one thing, believed another; saw the man, confessed the God. But what follows is very gladdening; Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. In which sentence we are specially included, who have not seen Him with the eye, but retain Him in the mind, provided we only develope our faith in good works. For he only really believes, who practises what he believes.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. cxxi) He uses the past tense, the future to His knowledge having already taken place by His own predestination.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) If any one then says, Would that I had lived in those times, and seen Christ doing miracles! let him reflect, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

THEOPHYLACT. Here He means the disciples who had believed without seeing the print of the nails, and His side.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxxvii) John having related less than the other Evangelists, adds, And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. Yet neither did the others relate all, but only what was sufficient for the purpose of convincing men. He probably here refers to the miracles which our Lord did after His resurrection, and therefore says, In the presence of His disciples, and they being the only persons with whom He conversed after His resurrection. Then to let you understand, that the miracles were not done for the sake of the disciples only, He adds, But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; addressing Himself to mankind generally. And, this belief, he then says, profits ourselves, not Him in Whom we believe. And that believing ye might have life through His name, i. e. through Jesus, which is life.

SOURCE: ECATHOLIC 2000 Commentary in public domain.