You Are My Lord and My God
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
Easter 2 Year A, B, and C.
St. John 20: 19 — 31
As we listen to this passage of St. John’s Gospel presented, we are privileged to be rendered spiritually present at one of the most significant moments in our Lord’s ministry. It is worthy of our closest attention, and provides very rich material upon which to meditate — that is, to feed spiritually.
We will reflect on the account and divide it into two parts:
Part 1. Verses 19 to 23 Exchange of Peace Greetings
Part 2. Verses 24 to 31 St. Thomas’s Declaration.
Reflections on Our Text
Part 1. Verses 19 — 23
Exchange of Peace Greetings
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.”
The opening words indicate that it is still Easter Day when our Lord chose to visit His close disciples.
By the time St. John wrote his account of the Gospel, near the end of the first Century, Sunday was beginning to be celebrated more formally as the special time for Christians to mark, like this occasion, after work.
At this late afternoon gathering, the disciples locked the doors. Rumours had spread that the body of Jesus had been stolen from the tomb by some of His followers. The disciples were therefore on “high alert”, as the text says, “for fear of the Jews”.
In this Gospel, St. John refers to “the Jews” almost always as meaning the corrupt and antagonistic authorities; not to the Jewish people, to whom the first Christians saw themselves belonging.
Our Lord entered the locked room and stood among the disciples. He did not just suddenly appear. He majestically passed through the locked door and joined their company.
We might have expected Him to say, “What a great lot you all turned out to be! Where were you when I needed you most?” Instead He greets them in exactly the way He always had. In Hebrew (with slight variation if in a dialect such as Aramaic): “Shalom aleichem”, literally, “Peace to you,” that is, “Peace be upon you!” In very strict protocol, the disciples would all have replied, “Aleichem shalom,” literally, “To you, peace,” that is “Peace be upon you also,” confirming that they had accepted His gesture conferring Peace.
Our Lord’s quiet and gentle, traditional everyday greeting becomes for them a kind of absolution. When Jesus Messiah speaks peace, there is peace in the whole group and peace all around them, filling the whole room. That is the Jewish understanding, and we encourage our fellow Christians to exchange our Lord’s peace blessing whenever appropriate.
Verses 20 and 21
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.”
Before going any further, our Lord shows His closest friends the wounds from His Crucifixion; and having seen the wounds, they are overjoyed. As St. Augustine taught, Jesus repeats His customary gift of peace, which is what the greeting implies, to reassure them. There is therefore an unmistakable emphasis on acknowledging the importance of peace, harmony, and unity; and that these are His to give to each one present; for them likewise, to pass on.
Our Lord then makes a forthright statement:
• “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”
It is a very wonderful commission, and they knew exactly what He meant, for He had already instructed them carefully during earlier preparation.
• “I do not teach on my own authority. Quite the contrary; the Father,
whose ambassador I am, has laid on me a commandment as to what I am
to say and what I am to teach. And I know that His commandment
means eternal life. Therefore, whatever I teach, I teach exactly as the
Father has instructed me.” John 12: 49 and 50 (Kleist and Lilly)
The Apostles had heard Jesus, in prayer, only a few nights earlier, to say within their hearing:
• “As you have made me your ambassador to the world, so I am making
them my ambassadors to the world.” John 17: 18 (Kleist and Lilly)
Thus Jesus declares His intention to send them forth to proclaim His teaching — which He had received from the Father, and passed on to them.
At this point let’s pause and reflect on these extremely beautiful and important quotations spoken by the Lord Himself. As St. John taught in chapter 1 of his Gospel, Jesus Messiah is the Anointed One. He is the Word of God. He is the Teaching of God. This is what is called in the Old Testament, the Torah: Words of God, Teaching of God. Sometimes we use the term Law of God, but that must be understood in Hebrew culture — not in a modern Western sense. Jesus Christ is our Torah! He is the very Word of Adonai, the Lord God: and the time was approaching for His followers to see and proclaim this great truth.
Jesus is the Message. He is God’s instruction to mankind. Here He is commissioning His specially selected disciples to be His Apostles, and to go forth into the world to pass on this Message to all who would listen, and accept it — accept Him.
Verses 22 and 23
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.”
As the disciples were to carry out the teaching and work of the Master; so too they were to be channels of His life-giving breath. He therefore breathed on them. This symbolic action fulfilled, for those present, our Lord’s promise of the Paraclete. The word for “breathed” is the same as used in Genesis 2: 7 at the Creation, and Ezekiel 37: 9, in the Greek version of the Old Testament. (This, until the 4th century, was the version the early Church used as its base text rather than the Hebrew). So the connection between God’s breathing life into the first man, life into dry bones, and new life into the disciples, is clearly evident. The Apostles are, in turn, to breath the words of peace, forgiveness and, new life into mankind. Only slowly, one step at a time, is this great truth dawning on these beloved friends of Jesus.
With the gift of the Spirit, Jesus directs how His gifts and authority are to be used: in the active demonstration of God’s mercy and lovingkindness! This can only be done through the agency of the Holy Spirit within, making the Apostles Jesus’ ambassadors. To those who respond, forgiveness is assured. But to those who refuse, their sins remain unforgiven, and their lives distorted, confused and lacking direction.
A Good Question at this point
How are we to compare this account of the Holy Spirit being given to the Apostles and the great outpouring at Pentecost?
Some people talk as though the Holy Spirit didn’t appear until Pentecost. They ignore the presence of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters at Creation, preparing the earth and the waters for the production of life. They also miss the many signs of the work of the Spirit throughout the Old Testament.
Confusion can arise if we try to harmonise the breathing of the Holy Spirit by Our Lord on to His Apostles, and the gift at Pentecost. Each occurrence has its own special function. The gift of the Spirit on the day of the Resurrection is more in the nature of a gift to a specific group, with specific authority, and a specific mission.
On this occasion, in John 20: 22 and 23, our Lord does not give the indwelling of the Holy Spirit promised in His final discourses after the Last Supper. That is reserved for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, or “Shavuot,” the Feast of Weeks, as it is also called. Here it is the gift of a special spiritual power to promise absolution for sin and confer the blessed gifts of the spiritual life, in fact, the New Life of Jesus Christ. This authority was alluded to at the time of St. Peter’s declaration at Caesarea to Jesus — “You are the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God” It is now renewed and formally conferred upon all the Apostles. It is the institution of the Sacrament of Penance — of Reconciliation: the authority to pronounce a person fully restored to the Household of God, to fullness of life in peace and harmony with God and mankind. (Based on Ronald Cox: The Gospel Story)
For full text of the Shema see next pages.
Part 2. Verses 24 — 31
St. Thomas’s Declaration
Verses 24 and 25
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 nailmarks and put my hand
into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas, who had been absent from the Sunday evening meeting, was briefed by the others as to what happened. Understandably, Thomas outlines the condition on which he would believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. After all, they had the chance first to see Jesus’ wounds (v 20). He simply wanted the same opportunity. Thomas is very emphatic: “I will not believe it unless I myself see the proof!”
Verses 26 — 28
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 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!”
A week later Thomas is present when the disciples gather. Again Jesus appears and this time speaks to Thomas. First He uses Thomas’ own words, his emphatic condition upon which he would believe. But our Lord then immediately calls Thomas to a higher level of response: (literally) “Do not be unbelieving but believing”. In other words, “Thomas, put aside the world’s conditions for believing and allow all I have taught you to come alive and take over your mind and heart. Then you will be able to truly believe”.
This Thomas does instantly, and he accords Jesus with the most sublime acclamation ever made to him from human lips:
literally — “You are Adonai (LORD). You are my God,”
Let us ponder for a moment what St. Thomas’ words really signify:
“My Lord and my God.“
Three times daily, this devout Jew recited the most central prayer of Judaism from the Torah — the five Books of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 6: 4. This prayer opens with words closely related to what St. Thomas recited.
The Shema — Renewed by Jesus
“Shema Yishrael. Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.“
For full text of the Shema — See following page.
Remember, Jesus had emphatically renewed the place of the Shema to His Apostles, and St. Thomas would undoubtedly remember such a highpoint in the teaching of our Lord.
Deuteronomy 6: 4 — 9
Shema Yishrael. Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
St. Mark 12: 29 — 31
The first Commandment is:
‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
The second is this:
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19: 18)
There is no other commandment greater than these.
For full text of the Shema — See following page.
St. Thomas‘ exclamation was also very close to the opening of Psalm 63, which he, almost certainly is quoting.
In this way St. Thomas gives witness to Jesus as Lord and God.
We need to remember that “Adonai,” translated as, “Lord,” was a respectful substitute for the most holy name of God: “Yahweh,” which was not used by the faithful but whispered once a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.
This is the climax of the Holy Gospel according to St. John. The Holy Spirit is actively present and at work among the Apostles.
Verses 29 — 31
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.
Thomas’ acclamation is warmly received by Jesus. The acclamation of disciples who have not seen Jesus will move Heaven even more so. The Spirit continues to be at work in the Church today seeking to empower similar acts of faith and love in those who will place themselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. So with an open heart let us ask for and be open to receive the Holy Spirit. Let that be our special prayer for the next fifty days, until the Feast of Pentecost.
A Final Beatitude from Jesus for us:
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
(The remainder of the Gospel was added by the writer some time later.)
Aided by the Spirit of Truth, St. Thomas was able to respond to Jesus’ words: Stop doubting and believe.
His response has remained one of the most common prayers on the lips of Christ’s disciples ever since. The Fellowship presenting these Reflections encourages its members to recite the above Shema at least three times daily: every morning, afternoon / evening, and night-time. The Lord Jesus affirmed this prayer for His followers (St. Mark 12: 29 — 31). It is the most emphatic declaration of our belief in the First Commandment.
And so the meaning is clear to those who wish to be his disciples:
Through the Holy Spirit we too can proclaim Jesus to be Lord and God. This is what will be needed, if we are to resist all inclinations to follow after competing attractions, and remain loyal to our Blessed Messiah and everything He taught and continues to teach through Hios Body, the Church.
Let us go forth and proclaim it with power, that those who believe may also share in the Life of the risen Christ.
You are Adonai! You are my Lord and my God.
Blessed be His Name, whose glorious Kingdom is forever and ever!
St. Thomas travelled to India in the first Century and there established
Deuteronomy 6: 4 — 9
4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Deuteronomy 11: 13 — 21
13 If, then, you truly heed my commandments which I enjoin on you today,
Numbers 15: 37 — 41
37 The LORD said to Moses,
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so, remain
My Lord and My God
(Easter Day Year A) (St. John 20: 19 — 31)
1. St. Paul, inspired by our Lord’s teaching and actions wrote to the Christian
“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people
The Church has constantly, over 2,000 years, upheld ordination to the
“….. whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (See St. Mark 10: 42 — 45)
St. Paul encouraged Christ’s followers to be loyal and obedient to those in
2. When our Lord appeared to the Apostles gathered together after His
“Be entirely at peace!”
This is a beautiful moment of restoration. He breathes New Life into them
We too, suffer the greatest anxiety in failing the Lord, but His breath of
3. We are surrounded by people who look upon us as naïve and feeble minded
“Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.”
Blessed be the most Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 20: 19 — 31
Second Sunday after Easter Year B
NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The
21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain
24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when
25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said
26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and
28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that
31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the
New American Bible
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c)
Appendix – Special Note on John 20: 22 — 23
In recognition of the faith of our Protestant brothers and sisters who read these Reflections, we acknowledge and respect the difference between the various interpretations of these very special verses from St John. We have gathered a few quotations from Catholic scholarship to clarify the teaching of the Catholic Church to assist our readers understand the position taken by their Catholic friends.
In our Hebrew Catholic understanding of this teaching of Jesus Messiah, the Church, from its infancy looked upon the power to pronounce absolution for sin as exercised under the authority of persons appointed to administer this ministry ― as had been the case historically in Judaism.
1. W. Leonard (St John. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture 1953)
By the symbolic gesture of breathing upon them he signified that he
2. W.L. Newton (St John. A Commentary on the New Testament 1942)
The power to forgive sins was conferred in a special way, ― for it was
“He breathed on them.” Compare Genesis 2: 7; Wisdom 15: 11;
3. Bruce Vawter, C.M. (Jerome Biblical Commentary St. John 1968)
23. The giving of the Spirit is here specifically related to the power