I’ve been active in Facebook for several years now. I’ve reconnected with old friends, and made new ones. Some of my Facebook “friends” are people I’ve never met “face to face,” and yet I feel like I know them well. I’ve made friends in the peace activist community, others in twelve-step recovery, and other areas of common interest. Yet, if truth be told, I only know one aspect of them. I know what they post online; I know their political views. Not all that long ago I was visiting in person with friends I met online, and I realized how little we have in common outside of our one field of interest. I thought I knew this couple well, and found that in reality, I don’t. When I relate to someone face to face, it’s different than just through a computer or an app on my phone.
I think that’s one of the drawbacks to my relationship with Jesus. Often times I think we know him, based on something I’ve been taught, or heard, or read. For the next few weeks, we’re going to look at Jesus in the gospels in a series called “Face to Face,” and, hopefully, get to know him at least a little bit better than we do now.
As I was growing up I was taught how I had to be good, in order to make Jesus happy and not be punished by him. Jesus remembered all of my sins. Even with forgiveness, I was not totally clean. (Those my age and older will remember the milk bottle, dark with sin, and then kind of grey once absolved—never completely white again.) Yet today’s gospel passage teaches us something different. Think about it for a moment: Jesus’ friends left him when he was on trial and then crucified. Thomas would not believe that he had risen from the dead. So, Jesus pointed that out to them when he saw them again, right? Not hardly. His first words are “Peace be with you.” Then he breathes on them, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit….” His disciples would have thought back to the creation story in Genesis, when God breathed on the man he had formed, and brought him to life. Now Jesus, instead of recriminating them for their faults, recreates them and sends them out to be his witnesses. No wonder we can celebrate this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. When we meet Jesus Face to Face, it is his mercy that we encounter.