It seems to be God’s modus operandi to want a deep heartfelt commitment from us, and this requires that we come to that point of our own free will and at our own pace. It is a process that takes time. If you remember the parable of the sower, God isn’t interested in those who show lots of initial promise and then fade quickly away. He is interested in those willing to go through the full maturation process and then produce outstanding harvests.
If Jesus had burst upon the disciples with His full brilliance, there would have been immediate response, but responses that were unsustainable over the long term.
We see Jesus reveal His risen Self in stages.
Firstly He comes among them as they are standing together reciting evening prayer. He waits patiently until they realise that He is with them.
Only then does He speak to them. He waits patiently until they have all processed what He said.
Only then does He uncover His hands and side to them, so that they may gaze upon His wounds and begin to understand His passion and death.
Only when they have all seen His wounds does He commission them and begin the activity of the Holy Spirit within them.
We also see that it took the disciples time to process what Jesus showed them of His resurrection, and what it meant.
If they had processed it quickly, Thomas would have seen evidence in their changed behaviour and consequently believed what they told him of the resurrection. But eight days later, the doors are still closed/shut/locked.
We don’t really see any profound change until several weeks have passed and the Holy Spirit comes in power. All of these Easter weeks were needed for Jesus to teach them the many things He couldn’t teach them prior to the resurrection, and for them to begin to get their heads around it.
If Jesus treats them with such patience and merciful kindness, we should do the same for each other.
Have you noticed that people who love to quote Pope Francis about sour faced Christians not being Christians at all are usually naturally cheerful and positive people? It is a stick they like to brow beat the rest of us with at this time of year.
However the truth is that we are all in process; and some might be closer in that process to comprehending the impact of the resurrection than others, but it doesn’t give us the right to denigrate anyone else’s progress or lack thereof.
You could also look upon this process as stages in spiritual growth:
Most of us first get a sense of Jesus when we are gathered together in corporate prayer. For some this will take the form of prayer groups, or worship groups, or liturgical prayer, or the Mass.
When that awareness grows, then we begin to receive communications from Him. That could be the bible verse that jumps off the page, or a deep sense of the rightness of a particular decision, or even the interior voice He sometimes uses.
Only when we have got to know Him to a certain level, does He then take us to the level of understanding Him through His wounds and His Passion.
Only then when we have begun to understand the sufferings and redemption He won for us, only then can we be sent out as witnesses, and only after the Holy Spirit has had His full way with us.
And a big part of that mission is reconciling relationships into unity through forgiveness. We cannot draw closer to God unless we draw closer to each other as well.
Let us remember that the first disciples actually saw the risen Jesus, and yet they still struggled to comprehend what it meant, and this process took significant time for them too.
May the risen Jesus grant us a share in His patience and merciful kindness, so that we might be a lot gentler to ourselves and to each other on our shared journey to comprehend the fullness of the resurrection. Amen.