It had dawned and night had fallen during that first day of the week. The residents of Jerusalem were in deep slumber after that boisterous night of farewell: through the four gates of the city of David, the caravans carrying thousands of pilgrims had made their exit. The feasts of the Passover were over. Everything was back to normalcy. Everyone was going back to his house. Everyone, except us…
Peter: I’ve seen him! You’ve got to believe me!!
Magdalene: So have I! I’ve seen him, just as I am seeing all of you now!
Philip: I dare you, swear you’ve seen him!
Magdalene: I swear I saw Jesus! I’ve seen him alive and kicking!… You don’t believe me, do you?
James: No, Magdalene, of course not…
Hiding in the basement of Mark’s house, whose doors were locked, we were seated on the floor around an old oil lamp and still discussing the same stuff…
Magdalene: I swear by my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother!
Philip: Go on ascending, till you end up swearing by Adam and Eve. But nobody buys your story, do you hear me?
Nathanael: A woman’s oath doesn’t hold water, and much less yours, because you still have milk teeth. Let’s see, how old are you, Mary dear of Magdala?
Magdalene: As a matter of fact, I don’t remember, but I’m more than fifteen and less than twenty.
Philip: Ha! So, a snotty-nose like you wants to convince me that a dead man has risen again?
Magdalene: So Mam Mary is snotty-nosed too, is that it, Philip? Mary, come over here a minute!
James: Leave her alone, Magdalene. Mary is the mother… and mothers who weep see a lot of visions. This is always the case, you know….
Magdalene: All I know is that Peter hasn’t given birth to anyone… and yet he saw him!
Peter: I’m already a sly, old fox, do you hear me, red head? When you were still on all fours, I was already hurling stones at the dogs in Bethsaida! I’m telling you that Jesus is alive! I saw him!
Mark: And we did too! This quacky here and I even ate with him in Emmaus!
Philip: In Emmaus!… Isn’t it in Emmaus where the dead spirits go up and down the boiling waters of the fountain?
Mark: Fine, fine, if you refuse to believe. I’m laughing at all of you, men without faith!
Philip: Same here, for you are a gang of demented ones!
Nathanael: I’ve never seen anything so funny… Do you know what’s been going around the city, huh? That we were the ones who stole Jesus’ body.
James: Tell me, who said that?
Nathanael: The leaders. Those of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus came to tell me about it.
Philip: Well, I say they themselves have stolen it, that we may fall into the trap and get caught.
Magdalene: Nobody stole no one because Jesus is alive!
James: Shut up, Magdalene, and stop yelling!
Thomas: Well, well… y…y…you continue with your fighting… I…I…I’m leaving.
Thomas, who was listening in one corner of the basement, stood up and shook his robe…
Thomas: I…I…I’m leaving.
Philip: Where the hell are you going, stutterer?
Thomas: To M…M…Ma…Matthias’ h…h…house.
James: What’s wrong with Matthias?
Thomas: N..n..nothing. He c..c..came to celebrate the P..p..passover and now he’s going back to Jericho. I’m g…g…going with him.
Nathanael: Very well. I guess this is what everyone has to do, to get out of this damned, crazy city once and for all.
Philip: Most of the pilgrims are already gone. Why don’t we pack up all our things and start for the road to Galilee early morning, tomorrow, huh?
Magdalene: No, I’m not leaving Jerusalem!
Peter: Neither am I, until everything is clear to me!
Thomas: I d…d…don’t care anymore… I’m g…g…going to Matthias’ house.
Peter: Wait a minute, Thomas. Don’t go. Don’t you understand? Jesus is alive!
Thomas: Y…y…you’re all stupid!… Goodbye!
Thomas headed for the street, turned to the corner where the tanners were, and ran down the street toward Siloam where his old friend, Matthias was staying, near the pool…
Matthias: Oh, Thomas, it’s you! I was already wondering where you had been, my friend!
Thomas: Where else should I be? Since that Friday, we have been hiding in a basement, l..l..like s..s…scared m…m…mice.
Matthias: I can just imagine… Damn, with so much hope, and then everything’s gone down like a house of sand…. Oh…! My grandma used to say that he who is born potbellied has no use for a sash. This is what happens to poor people like us, Thomas. We are worth nothing.
Thomas: That’s right, Matthias. We can’t believe in anything, nor dream of anything.
Matthias: John the Baptist came clamoring for justice, and zas! he was beheaded! Then came Jesus proclaiming changes, and you saw what happened.
Thomas: Why do things turn out bad, for us, the p…p..oor, Matthias?
Matthias: Perhaps we’re unlucky, buddy.
Thomas: Yeah, for h…h…having bad mothers like them.
Matthias: This country is hopeless. Things are going from bad to worse… Anyway, what’s the use regretting, when everything’s come to an end?… Tell me, Thomas, how’s the Nazarene’s mother? And his friends?
Thomas: I’ve just been there.
Matthias: C’mon, tell me about them.
Thomas: Worse too…. Some of them have snapped.
Matthias: Of course, I understand… They’ve suffered a lot. It’s always like this at first… Later, things will take their natural course…
Thomas: All I want to do is go back to m…m…my h…h…house… When are you leaving, Matthias?
Matthias: Tomorrow, at the first hour. We can travel together, if you want.
Thomas: S..sure, I’m g..g..going with you… and tra…la…la… the story of the Kingdom of God is over. So, I’m g…g…getting my things now, say g…g…goodbye to my friend, and I’ll be r….r…right back…
Matthias: Don’t talk too much, so you can get back soon… I’ll be waiting for you!
Thomas went back to Mark’s house… He was sad, his head bowed down and his hands inside his pockets. He bent to pick up a stone and furiously hurled it against the wall…
Thomas: D…d…damn it, everything’s come to an end. Everything’s o…o…over…!
He continued walking through the dark, solitary streets of Jerusalem… The sky, dark and brilliant, laden with countless stars, was descending… Thomas entered the barrio of Zion and turned to the street of tanners…
Thomas: B..b..but what’s happening h…h…ere? It’s almost m…m…midnight…
In spite of the hour, no one slept in Mark’s house. The noise coming from the basement could be heard in the street…. When Thomas opened the door, he found all of us laughing, leaping and screaming with joy…
James: Thomas!! At last you’re here!
Nathanael: Did you see him, Thomas, did you see him?
Philip: So did we! Everyone has seen him!
Thomas: B…b…but how? M…M…atthias has not left his house.
Magdalene: What Matthias are you talking about? It’s Jesus!…He’s been here with us!
Peter: Why did you leave, Thomas? Had you stayed, you would have seen him too!
Thomas: B…b…ut, how is it p…p…possible? All of you are now singing the same song?!
James: Thomas, sit down and listen to me. You’ve heard me before, haven’t you? You know I’m a stubborn man, with a very closed mind. I didn’t believe a word of Magdalene, nor Peter, not even Mary… but now, I’ve seen him! Everyone here has seen him, Thomas! Jesus is alive!
Thomas: I knew it! My uncle used to tell me how contagious madness could be.
Philip: No, Thomas, this is something else. The greatest thing that ever happened in this world! God has given us eyes to be witnesses to it!
Thomas: You must’ve seen a g…g…ghost…
Magdalene: Oh yeah? I didn’t know that ghosts nowadays were dark and bearded! Ha!
James: No, Thomas, it was he. It was Jesus! He was right there where you are. He came, he greeted all of us and we became breathless. Then he began to laugh when he saw us scared to death…
Thomas: I repeat, it was a g…g…ghost.
Magdalene: He’s no ghost, my goodness, ghosts don’t eat and this one gobbled a fish tail and some honey we had reserved for you… Look, look at the bowl where we had kept your dinner…! Jesus has eaten everything! He drank wine and my, how he blew his nose! So ghosts do these, huh?
Thomas: Jesus is d…d…dead. How can he be a…a…alive when I saw him dead?
Philip: Exactly. How can he be dead when we have seen him alive?
Thomas: You must’ve seen his s…s…spirit. They say the souls of the d…d…dead linger seven times before they rest in p…p…peace…
Magdalene: No, he was Jesus in flesh and bones! The same Jesus he was, laughing the same way, doing the same things, but a happier one… what more… what else…. I dunno how to tell you… but he was the same Moreno!
Thomas: Well, I don’t b…b…believe it.
James: Listen, Thomas: when you left, we were fighting, remember? We were arguing whether to go back to Galilee or to stay in Jerusalem. Suddenly, Jesus came in. And he said: “You have to go out to the world to announce the triumph of God”…
Nathanael: And he looked at each one of us and said: “I’m counting on all of you! You have to continue fighting for justice, even if it will cost your lives, like what happened to me… But don’t be afraid. Death does not have the last word. It’s the word of God that is final.
Peter: Do you understand, Thomas, do you understand what happened? Jesus was the first to recover from it all! And we shall all follow him!
James: Jesus trusted in the Lord and now God is trusting in us.
Philip: The Kingdom of God cannot be stopped by anyone, not even the rulers, nor the armies, nor the devil, no one, not even death!
Thomas: That sounds very b…b…beautiful… too b…b…beautiful to be true…
Peter: But Thomas…
Thomas: No. I don’t believe such stuff. These are stories… stories and visions… Just like the thirsty cameleers in the desert, seeing water where there is none… No, I don’t believe it, damn!… The only truth I know is that we a…a…are sad… We have lost the best friend we ever h…h…had… and with him went our hopes too… Everything is finished, everything…
Peter: No, Thomas, listen to me well: Last Friday, in Golgotha, it seemed like heaven had caved in on us forever. But God kept this surprise for us… The first to be surprised was Jesus himself, when God raised him from the dead, can you imagine that…! Those bandits thought they had won. But God knew it all along and stretched his hand to Jesus… Why don’t you believe, Thomas?
Thomas: Because I don’t. And in order for me to believe… I must first feel the wounds in his hands with my own… No, please, stop deceiving me, for I don’t want to have any illusions… No, I may have a c…c…crooked tongue, b…b…but I still have a l…l…lucid mind…. Tomorrow, I’m l…l…leaving with Matthias…
But after a few hours…
Thomas: Matthias! Matthias!… Open the door!
Matthias: Hey, what’s the matter, Thomas… what’s up…?
Thomas went inside his friend’s house like a whirlwind…
Thomas: Matthias! It’s true that Jesus is alive, much more alive than the two of us! I said I wouldn’t believe if I didn’t see, but it was true. We were all in the basement, with the doors closed, and I said no, I didn’t believe, they said yes, they did believe and so forth and so on, when Jesus came and sat with us, just like a member of the group, as usual. Then he looked at me and oh, he tickled me in one arm and then in the other, telling me: “I’m no ghost, Thomas, and don’t be so stubborn!” Jesus was in front of me, just like the two of us now and said: “C’mon, give me your hand, Thomas!” I almost dropped dead saying: “Moreno, you are the Messiah!” Then he said: “I was like you, too, Thomas. For a while I thought God had abandoned me. But no. I entrusted my fate to his hands and as you can see, He did not fail me. Do the same, Thomas. Have faith, even if you don’t see nor understand. Now, run, run and tell everyone that it’s not all over yet, that this is just the beginning….” That’s why I came to tell you, Matthias, I had to tell you!!!!
Thomas’ stuttering tongue straightened up as he told his friend what he had seen and heard. Matthias believed and began to announce what happened to the whole barrio of Siloam, until the news spread everywhere… We, too, are announcing it to you, sharing our joy, knowing that Jesus, from Nazareth is alive forever!!!
The gospel account on Thomas’ unbelief and his act of faith is replete with “material” details: that Jesus ate fish and honey is very specific, that Thomas touched the wounds in his hands and on his side… These aspects are emphasized in order not to imagine Jesus rising from the dead like a ghost, an ethereal spirit, somebody “not physical.” In the Christian world, when we speak of resurrection “of the flesh,” or “of the body,” we are proclaiming the unity of humans, of all people. We are also referring to his body, to the material through which the spirit manifests itself. God is concerned with humans’ bodies for as long as they live – that is why the gospel is for this life on earth, and when a person dies, God is also as concerned with the resurrection of our body.
The mentality of Israel has always conceived of persons as a unity, that the body and soul were not separate, as the Greeks have likewise thought. There is no despising the body, the “material” in the tradition of Israel. For an Israelite, man is “basar” (“flesh” in relation to physical debility, intellectual limitations or sin). It is at the same time, “nefesh” (“soul” in relation to spiritual values and to God). Persons in their unity are inspired by the “ruaj,” the Spirit of God. It does not therefore, aim to separate the material from the spiritual, the soul from the body, but to consider the whole person as weak or full of possibilities, to see persons as instruments of death or as giver of life, etc. When Saint Paul speaks of resurrection as the transition from a “carnal” to a “spiritual” person, he is precisely referring to this: through death, a person transforms finite self to an infinite one (1 Cor 15:35-49). In any case, it is practically impossible for us in this world, to fully capture this reality of resurrection we hope for in faith. It is like explaining to a child in his mother’s womb how life is like outside, what it means to breathe, and what the colors are. In his fetal existence, enclosed, dark and floating, the infant would be absolutely incapable of even imagining it.
The Paschal accounts, which are schematically presented, help us understand that the disciples did not experience the resurrection of Jesus as a singular act of God in the course of history, but that it was going to continue from that moment to the present.
The disciples experienced something else: that with Jesus’ resurrection, the “end” was to begin, or more exactly put, “the beginning of the end”. The war against sin was already won. It had to be won in some battles, but with Jesus resurrected, it became obvious where human history was heading. The disciples were witnesses, on account of that Paschal experience, to Jesus’ entry to the thus proclaimed Kingdom of God. The testimonies of the disciples, of the first Christians and the first basic communities that were organized then, tell us that for these men and women, “to believe” was to live in the new world of God, to savor beforehand the definitive triumph, to anticipate what the end of time would have in store for us: the coming of God’s justice.
This faith, experienced and lived, will save us. When we say that Jesus saves us, that he is our savior, we are affirming that on account of his resurrection, he has become a model that will guide us, that our life may become meaningful, that it may be “saved” from the absurd, from egoism, from fatalism, from passivity and finally, from death. This means, “we are saved” when we follow the way of Jesus: his commitment, generosity, concern, love for others, struggle for justice, communitarian spirit, fraternity, equality among men and women. This road is the “savior” of human life. By raising Jesus, God has given credit to the validity of this road. To follow him entails a lot of risks, since the values of the gospel are not of this world. Well then, when death is interposed as the price of Christian commitment, God is telling us in the Paschal event that the life of those who live like Jesus will never end. It has so much quality, so much strength, that it can overcome death.
Jesus overcame death and his resurrection is a guarantee that after him, and following in his footsteps, we shall also surpass it. The risen Jesus frees us from death, and also from fear of dying. This is a question crucial to the Christian faith. The authenticity of our faith is measured by our attitude toward death. If we see death as a form of defeat, we shall be paralyzed by fear of the unjust who cause it or by a fatalistic attitude toward the limitations of human existence. This lack of freedom will prevent us from giving full testimony of commitment in favor of life that characterizes the Christian. Seeing death as failure, we will not see in Jesus crucified a savior, but another victim of the system. We will not believe in the resurrection. Seeing it as such, then Jesus is nothing more than an “example” of the past. But if we free ourselves from the fear of dying, then death becomes a source of life.
(Mk 16:14-18; Lk 24:36-49; Jn 20:19-29)