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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Luke 24:36. Mark 16:14. John 20:19]

WHILE the apostles and disciples were thus assembled together in a room in Jerusalem, the doors of which were closed, Jesus came and stood in their midst, saying to them: “Peace be to you! It is I, fear not!” They trembled with fear, thinking it was a spirit. But He said to them: “Why are you troubled? See My Hands and Feet! A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me to have.” Then He showed them His Hands, His Feet, and His Side. But they still wondered, and were scarcely able to believe their senses, when Jesus asked: “Have ye here anything to eat?” They gave Him broiled fish and some honeycomb. And when He had eaten in their presence, He took what remained, and gave it to them. “Then He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.”

Again He said: “Peace be to you! As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.” When He had said this He breathed upon them, saying: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

Now it so happened that Thomas was not with the other apostles when Jesus appeared to them. Therefore they told Thomas afterwards that they had seen the Lord. But Thomas declared that he would not believe unless he saw in His Hands and in His Feet the print of the nails.

Eight days after, the apostles were again assembled, Thomas being in their midst. And Jesus suddenly appeared to them, saying: “Peace be to you!” Then He told Thomas to put his finger in the print of the nails in His Hands and Feet, and to put his hand into His Side. Thomas did so, and exclaimed with fervour: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied: “Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.”

Proof of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus appeared in the midst of the assembled apostles, let Himself be touched by them, and ate with them. He imparted to His apostles various gifts and instructions for the good of His Church; gave them the power to forgive and retain sins; and opened their minds to understand the types and prophecies relating to the Messias.

The apostles as witnesses to the Resurrection. It was not without reason that our Lord sought to convince the apostles by the evidence of their senses that He had risen from the grave with the same Body which had died on the Cross. He did this because they were to testify before Jews and Gentiles to the fact of His Resurrection. Thus, Peter was able to say on the day of Pentecost, when speaking to ten thousand men: “This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses!” and not one man could contradict him. St. John was able to write with equal truth: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life (Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, made Man) we declare unto you” (1 John 1:1).

The mission of the apostles and their successors. Our Lord’s words: “As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you”, are full of very deep meaning. Even as God the Father had sent the Son into the world, so did God the Son send the apostles. Their mission therefore is divine, and the end for which they were sent forth is the same end as that for which Jesus Christ was sent. Now, what was the end for which our Lord was sent into the world? He Himself answers the question thus, in His discourse with Nicodemus: “God sent His Son into the world, that the world might be saved by Him.” This was the mission which He transferred to the apostles. The work of Redemption was accomplished, and the office of the apostles was to apply the fruits of Redemption to men, in order that they might be saved. This was the office of the apostles, and this is the office of the Church. To her has our Lord bequeathed the treasures of His doctrine and of His merits, to administer them for Him, and it is only through her that we can receive a share in these treasures. For this reason our Lord said: “He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me!” (Luke 10:16.)

The holy Sacrament of Penance. Jesus Christ, by His Passion and Death, obtained for the world the forgiveness of sin. But this forgiveness has to be applied to each individual. Now, in order that individual men might actually receive this pardon, and with it the peace of God, our Lord gave to His apostles the power of remitting sins in His stead, and equally of retaining them should the sinner be unworthy of forgiveness. By doing this our Lord instituted the holy Sacrament of Penance, whereby all sins, without exception, can be remitted, provided the sinner be contrite. Our Lord left it to the apostles to decide whether the sinner was or was not worthy of absolution: but since they were not omniscient as He was, they could not decide unless the sinner revealed or confessed his sins to them; and thus, while our Lord imposed on the apostles the duty of deciding as to the condition of the sinner, and of acting as judges, He equally imposed on the faithful the duty of revealing the condition of their souls, and of confessing their own individual sins.

The peace of God, and the consolation given by the holy Sacrament of Penance. When our Saviour was born into the world, the angels sang: “Peace on earth to men of good will.” And now that the work of Redemption was accomplished, and He was on the point of returning to heaven, our Lord imparted peace to His own; and, in order that all might receive this peace of soul, He instituted the holy Sacrament of Penance. By means of this Sacrament any poor, anxious sinner can receive pardon and grace, and with these peace for his uneasy soul—that peace of God which, according to St. Paul (Phil. 4:7), “surpasseth all understanding”, and is the greatest treasure on earth. The Sacrament of Penance was not instituted to torment us, but to console us. It is the tribunal of God’s mercy, and will enable us to stand one day before the tribunal of His justice, and obtain everlasting peace. We cannot possibly thank our loving Saviour sufficiently for having instituted this holy Sacrament.

The Divinity of our Lord stands out prominently in the chapter we have just read, for only God could impart the Holy Ghost, and only God could give to mortal men the power of forgiving sins. It would have been impossible for our Lord to have said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, and whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven”, had He not been God. The sixth apparition of our Lord (to Thomas) is a further and incontestable proof both of our Lord’s Resurrection and of His Divinity. 1. He knew the thoughts of Thomas, and knew that he had said: “Unless I see the marks of the nails … I will not believe.” He was, therefore, omniscient, as God alone can be. 2. When Thomas worshipped Him and called Him his Lord and his God, Jesus did not say: “What are you doing, Thomas? I am not God!” No, He accepted the apostle’s homage, and called those blessed who believed without, however, requiring ocular evidence.

The faith of Thomas was not without merit. We might be inclined to think that Thomas’ faith was not a virtue and had no merit, because he only believed after he had seen and touched the risen Saviour. But we should be mistaken. It was only the Body and the wounds of our Lord that Thomas could see; he could not see His Godhead. As, however, Thomas had the will to believe, the tokens of our Lord’s marvellous Resurrection enabled him to recognise His Divinity, and believe in it. His faith, therefore, was a gift of God, and a true and meritorious faith. The chief priests and scribes, even had they seen and touched the risen Lord, would not have believed in Him, because the will to believe was wanting to them.

The unbelief of Thomas was unreasonable, and was therefore rebuked by our Lord. He ought to have trusted the testimony of His fellow-apostles. Thomas, as an apostle, had himself, to be, an eye-witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as an eye-witness can only give evidence of what he himself has seen, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went after the wandering sheep, and appeared to Thomas to convince him of the reality of His Resurrection, so that he might declare it to all the world, as an eye-witness.

The unbelief of Thomas has, by the Providence of God, been rendered very useful to us. “By touching the Lord’s wounds, the apostle has healed for ever the wounds of unbelief in our hearts; and thus the unbelief of Thomas is a greater help to belief than the faith of the other apostles” (St. Gregory the Great).

Sunday. It was on a Sunday that our Lord rose from the dead; and on the following Sunday the apostles and disciples were once more assembled together. We can see by this that from the very beginning the faithful kept this day holy, as being the day on which our Lord rose from the dead. Again, it was on a Sunday that the Holy Ghost came down on the apostles. Thus Christians have always kept holy the Sunday instead of the ancient Sabbath, it being the day on which God both completed and confirmed the work of Redemption—the new spiritual creation.

Our Lord retained the marks of His five wounds in His glorified Body, and ascended into heaven with them: 1. as a witness that He rose from the dead with the same Body which was crucified and laid in the grave; 2. as a sign of His victory over sin, hell, and death; 3. as a token of His everlasting office of High Priest and Mediator with the Father; for His wounds are ceaselessly interceding for us with the Father, and imploring Him to have mercy on us for the sake of our Lord who suffered for us; 4. as a proof of His infinite love for us. They are a consolation to the penitent sinner, but a terror to the impenitent, for Jesus will show them to these last at the Day of Judgment, and will say to them: “All this I suffered for you, but you would not love Me nor be converted!”

The five grains of incense are placed in the Paschal Candle in remembrance of the five wounds of the risen Saviour.

APPLICATION. Are you one of those ignorant Christians who regard the Sacrament of Penance as a burden rather than a boon? Did it ever occur to you how much it cost your Saviour to obtain the pardon of your sins? Thank Him, then, from the bottom of your heart for having instituted this Sacrament of mercy. Receive it with the most careful preparation, and never neglect to make a fervent thanksgiving after receiving it.

Throw yourself with Thomas at the Feet of Jesus, and worship Him as your Lord and your God. If Jesus is your God, His doctrine is divine truth, and His Church is a divine institution. Keep a firm hold on your holy Catholic Faith, and pray to God to increase your faith, and to make it more firm and living.








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