Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
The Lord through the prophet Zechariah promised a day when “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.”
Here, the disciples look upon Him whom they had pierced. And just as the prophecy says, this vision of the pierced one goes hand in hand with the pouring out of the “Spirit of grace and supplication.”
Like all prophecies, they get fulfilled in installments. There’s not necessarily one fulfillment, but like ripples out from a rock dropped into a pond, the effects of a prophecy endure to all eternity.
Jesus first fulfilled this prophecy at the moment of His death, as St. John testifies to, when He was pierced, and water and blood poured out. At this moment also, Jesus “gave up His spirit.” So there you have the giving of the spirit, along with the piercing, going on. You might say this was the literal fulfillment of the prophecy.
And in this week’s Gospel, you might say you have the applicative fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus again displays His crucified Person, and again breathed out His spirit, but this time He teaches what’s going on.
With His pierced Person comes peace in the midst of fear. And with the breathing out of His spirit comes forgiveness of sins.
Both these gifts, worked by the Spirit He poured out, deliver the “spirit of grace and supplication.”
The theme of this week is “as newborn babes,” or quasimodo geniti. As we meditated on in the previous post, just as babes receive the gifts of their mothers, so also do we. Babies do nothing but receive. There’s no conscious activity or functioning of the emotion, will, or intellect for them to suckle on the breast. It almost comes naturally.
The gift of the breast dictates the terms of the reception of that gift. That’s the grace.
And the driver is the hunger. Or, the spirit of supplication.
So also with that moment in the liturgy when, after the consecration, the minister turns toward us and says, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always.” In some traditions, the pastor presents the pierced one, the body and blood of our Lord, as the congregation sings the Agnus Dei, proclaiming the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Right there is your spirit of grace and supplication at work. The gift itself fulfills the hunger we have, and it dictates the terms of our reception of it.
Now, here’s a rather significant point. It’s what’s written after Jesus shows the disciples His pierced Person. “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
Do we see the Lord? Last week we meditated that John has subtle material answering this question. On one hand, we are among they who, having not seen, yet believe. On the other hand, in the resurrection accounts, we learn there is a witness of Christ through the breaking of bread, in His calling of our names, and here, in the place where the “products of His piercing” or presented to us.
Furthermore, we must confess that Christ is truly present in Church, and that presence is in the flesh and blood. For, He promises to be present wherever two or three are gathered in His name, and St. John warns against denying that Jesus “has come” in the flesh, meaning He remains in the flesh. So, if we would say Jesus is present, it must be in flesh and blood.
So, Jesus is present, of course, mysteriously, but still in flesh and blood.
And with the presentation of the body and blood of the Lord, we get an absolute replay of exactly what He did as His disciples sat in fear! It’s not really a replay, it’s exactly what we said before about the prophecies and the Word of God, how it is fulfilled. Time sort of compresses with God’s Word, so that, like looking at a mountain range from a distance, it all looks as one scene even though one peak may be miles from the other.
“They will look on him whom they pierced” is the Word. The disciples looking and our looking are the mountain peaks. But the event is the same. We are given the spirit of grace and supplication. The gift of forgiveness and life, as well as the prayerful desire for it. Indeed, the liturgy works all this out. This week, we open the hood and see what’s going on under the words of the liturgy, “The peace of the Lord be with you alway.”
And the people said “Amen.” (Not, “back at you” or “and also with you.” It’s the Lord, not the minister, giving the peace.)