Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Three skip out, ten do zip

April 17, 2020

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“Thomas places his finger into Jesus’ side” (Jn 20:27). St. Savior’s Church, Jerusalem, Israel. Father Michael Van Sloun

There is a disturbing and similar detail in this week’s and next week’s gospels. Both are accounts of Easter Sunday, the first from John, the second from Luke. The gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter tells how Thomas was missing, and the gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter tells how Cleopas and the other disciple were also missing. All three were absent, off by themselves, not with the other disciples in Jerusalem.

This is a problem. Jesus had prayed at the Last Supper that his followers would be one, and on Easter Sunday three of them were apart from the group. John’s gospel does not say where Thomas went. Luke reports that Cleopas and the other disciple were on the road to Emmaus. Wherever they were, they were not where they were supposed to be, with the others.

On Easter Sunday a group of disciples was huddled together behind locked doors in Jerusalem, probably ten of them, the twelve apostles minus Thomas and Judas Iscariot. They were also missing Cleopas and the other disciple, two of their closest partners. It is presumed that the ten knew that Judas Iscariot had committed suicide. The absence of the other three would have been conspicuous. They should have been alarmed by their absence. They should have been wondering, “Why aren’t they here?” “Why did they leave?” “Where are they now?” A close-knit band of disciples would have wanted the three absent ones to be with them.

There is no report that the ten apostles took any initiative to locate the other three. There is no record of them asking anyone about their whereabouts, nor is there a record that anyone went out to look for them and invite them back.

Usually when it comes to sin and blame on Easter, the three disciples who were missing are chastised for being absent. But what about the other ten? They also failed. They could have been doing something and did nothing. They shirked their responsibilities when they did not reach out to the other three and attempt to reunite them to the group.

Peter understood that there is strength in numbers and danger when a person goes off alone. Only days earlier he had gone off by himself, alone, when he denied Jesus. The other nine were also aware of the value of group togetherness. A community of believers can help a person stay on the right path. Off alone, it is easy to stray off course. With group support it is easier to make good choices. Off alone, a person is vulnerable and more likely to slip and fall. In the group there is accountability. Off alone, there is independence and no one to offer constructive suggestions or confront sins and failings.

We need to learn from the mistakes of the ten. It is easy for regular churchgoers, especially after the large crowds for Easter Sunday shrink back to the regular size, to point an accusing finger at those who worship occasionally or who have fallen away from the Church, and claim that they are at fault for being absent. Those who are missing are absent for a variety of reasons. Instead of assessing blame, it is better to offer the benefit of the doubt, and instead of being harsh and critical, to be warm and receptive. It is up to regular churchgoers to reach out to those who are not connected and do something to reunify them with the group.

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