“Eight days later, Jesus came again and stood among them”
by Fr Dan Carroll SDB
Since the birth of Adam and Eve God has been revealing himself to humanity bringing hope, joy, peace and consolation. Through Jesus He revealed himself as ‘Father’. Jesus was constantly on the move bringing hope, healing, forgiveness, peace and freedom to people wherever he met them. In everything he did and said, Jesus was revealing the Father’s mercy.
In the Gospel passage for the Second Sunday of Easter, the Feast of Divine Mercy, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the evening of the first day of his resurrection. They were in a closed room full of fear. He greeted them with the words ‘Peace be with him’. They were transformed but one disciple, Thomas was missing. When Thomas returned he could not believe what he was told. The crucifixion had profoundly wounded Thomas and he now doubted Jesus.
But Jesus was patient with Thomas and he appeared to the disciples again, a week later. Thomas was present and Jesus invited him to put his fingers into the wounds in his hands and side. Thomas believed and acknowledged who Jesus was with the words ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas was now wrapped in God’s mercy and he was a new person.
Unbelief had overcome Thomas but the wounds of Jesus healed him. Jesus teaches us that Divine mercy is much stronger than our unbelief or misery.
The Feast of Divine Mercy reminds us that all life – peace, joy, forgiveness, hope, courage, and charity come from God.
No matter where we are or what we have done, God is waiting lovingly for us.
The Father left the banquet he gave to celebrate the return of the prodigal son, to enter into the darkness of the elder son, and offer him all that he had.
Jesus protected the woman caught in adultery and gave her new life.
Jesus looked at Peter lovingly after Peter had had betrayed him 3 times. His gaze transformed Peter who wept and repented.
Jesus is always waiting for us – even when we have left him behind. Our task is to be able to receive Jesus and give him the freedom and permission to shower his mercy upon us, and, like Thomas, be transformed.
Scripture readings: Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
Reflections and Prayers by Fr Jack Finnegan SDB
1st Reading – Acts 4:32-35
The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.
The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.
None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
Readings from the Book of Acts replace the Old Testament readings during Easter time. The purpose is to underline the living presence and action of the Risen One in the Church. Today’s reading focuses our attention on two aspects of the early faith community. Being of one heart and mind in gospel love or agape, the people shared everything. And second, the apostles preached the resurrection with great power. The challenge for us is to find new ways to express that loving fellowship and unity, and to share the good news in the power of the Spirit. Rejoice! Jesus has opened the gates to new life! Resurrection power is alive among us! Hope is alive!
Lord Jesus as we gather in worship today, Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in your love! Bathe us afresh in the fire of Mercy! Help us to love one another! Free us from fear and from everything that diminishes us! Fill us with resurrection life! Help us to share your living word with a world that opposes you! How awesome your love is, how vast your mercy! Hear our songs of praise, accept our gratitude! Through the power of the Spirit move our land by the wonders of mercy. Alleluia, Amen!
Psalm – Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Because of the story of the rejected stone today’s psalm was one of the earliest biblical texts applied to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The rejection of the stone is humanity’s no to God. Its elevation as the cornerstone, the resurrection, is God’s yes to us. The call is to express our gratitude, because God is good and his love endures forever. The LORD is our helper. The LORD is our courage. May our shouts of victory ring out! This is the day the LORD has made! Rejoice and be glad, alleluia! Come, let us praise the Lord of mercy! Alleluia!
Lord Jesus, we lift up songs of thanksgiving for the wonders of your mercy. The world rejected you but God raised you up to be our cornerstone! Touch us in our weakness and our need. Touch us in our failures and betrayals. You are our strength, our courage, our blessing, the One who lifts us up. Your resurrection is a source of utter wonder for us and in us! You are the Risen Lord, the all-merciful one. Alleluia, Amen!
2nd Reading – 1 John 5:1-6
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been begotten by God;
and whoever loves the Father that begot him
loves the child whom he begets.
We can be sure that we love God’s children
if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us;
this is what loving God is –
keeping his commandments;
and his commandments are not difficult,
because anyone who has been begotten by God
has already overcome the world;
this is the victory over the world –
Who can overcome the world?
Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God:
Jesus Christ who came by water and blood,
not with water only,
but with water and blood;
with the Spirit as another witness –
since the Spirit is the truth.
Jesus is the Christ! He is our living Hope! This is our Easter faith, this is our heartfelt expression of love for God. We believe that whoever is begotten of God in Jesus conquers a world organised in opposition to God! And the challenge for us? To witness to our faith in divine love in a world opposed to God, and to acclaim Jesus’ Easter victory over sin and death. He is the Lord of Mercy and Compassion! He is resurrection life!
Blessed are you Lord, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate one, the crucified one, the risen one! In your great mercy give us new life today! Lead us into resurrection life. Renew in us the gifts of baptism. Fill us with hope, touch us with love. Let your mercy rest on us like the dewfall! We praise you, Lord, we honour you, we glorify you! We rejoice in your Living Word. We delight in the salvation you pour lavishly on the cosmos. Alleluia, Amen!
Gospel Reading – John 20:19-31
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again,
‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The disciples were hidden away in a room with the doors locked. They were afraid. In so many ways, today, we are exactly like them. We too face the challenge of living resurrection life in a world opposed to God, a world full of doubt and unbelief. Some of us probably think that an appearance of Jesus would make all the difference. But today’s gospel paints a different picture. It took more than a post-resurrection appearance for Thomas to be convinced. Faith blossomed for Thomas when Jesus spoke to him personally: seeing and even touching, it seems, is no guarantee of faith! We too are challenged to make the leap of faith. What is needed is a personal encounter with the Living Christ, the Resurrection Lord. Faith comes from hearing the word of the Risen One and by extension from hearing gospel teaching proclaimed with integrity in the community of faith. May each of us hear the Risen One addressing us personally today, and may each of us embrace the Living Word of God with faithful love and true attention! Let faith blossom in the world! Embrace the power of resurrection!
Lord Jesus, we are so like your apostles and disciples, fearful, private, and concerned for our own safety and wellbeing. In your mercy bless us with the courage of new faith. Deal with us as you dealt with Thomas: lovingly and with patience, compassionately and with true mercy. Fill us with resurrection life. Lord, may each one of us, like Thomas, meet you personally today and lovingly embrace you, our Living Word. May streams of mercy and resurrection life flow abundantly in the world! Alleluia, Amen!
Word of God and Salesian Life by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB
Today the gospel presents two scenes, and two themes, from the post-resurrection experience. On the evening of the day of Easter, Jesus appeared in the midst of his disciples. He overcame their isolation and their fears, giving them peace and a new mission, that of forgiving sins. When they got over their incredulity, he breathed on them his Spirit of new life. He made them new men with a new mission of forgiveness for all. Eight days later Jesus reappeared to overcome the incredulity of the disciple who, because he had not been there the first day, was unable to believe what the others told him. This second appearance of Jesus was intended, not just to bring the unbeliever to faith, but to praise those who believe without having to ‘touch’ the miracle. Even Thomas’s profession of faith, one of the best in all of Scripture, cannot be compared to the faith of those who believe in the Risen One without needing to see him. Anyone who really believes in the Resurrection cannot allow fear to keep him closed in on himself and his own problems. He has a task to perform in the world, a mission of pardon. To believe in the Risen Lord it is not necessary to see him alive. It is enough to believe that he is alive.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
The text gives an account of two meetings of the Risen Lord with his disciples. Both took place in Jerusalem but not on the same day, and they do not serve the same purpose. What happened on the evening of resurrection day (20, 19-23) follows the pattern of other accounts of the Lord’s appearances – the unexpected presence of Jesus, joyful recognition by those who saw him, and a universal mission. The second appearance one week later (20, 24-29), develops a recurring motif – those who have not had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord find it difficult to believe. The community of believers and the individual believer were born in the same way, through an encounter with the Lord Jesus. When the Risen Lord appears to a group and confers on it a universal mission, the Church is born. When he makes himself known to a disciple and overcomes his incredulity, he transforms him into a believer.
The first account is therefore the ‘birth certificate’ of the Christian community. The Risen Lord confers his power, his Spirit, and his mission, the forgiveness of sins, on the group of disciples that he has chosen as his witnesses. The second account, on the other hand, dramatizes the individual journey to faith in the resurrection, of one who, not convinced by the testimony of his colleagues, had to see and touch the Risen Lord for himself. It would have been better if he had believed solely on the preaching of the apostles.
The first account is limited to a mere outline, but it is the more important. The Risen Jesus finds the group locked in the house and full of fear. The death of Jesus has filled his followers with anxiety. There is clearly an apologetic motive – these terrified men would not have become courageous preachers if they had not had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus. The unexpected presence of Jesus in their midst restores their joy. The one sent by God, restored to life and now returned to the Father, entrusts a mission to his followers and sends them out (20,21: as the Father sent me, so am I sending you). The sending is an act of investiture and a sign of trust. The handing on of the task from Christ to his Christians makes them new men, they receive from the Risen Lord his life-giving breath and a mission which makes them new. The conviction that the resurrection experience is the origin of and the reason behind the Christian mission is to be found in the whole gospel tradition (Mk 16, 15-16; Mt 28, 19-20; Lk 24, 47; Acts 1,8). It is typical of John that he sees the mission of the Church as one of universal forgiveness of sins. The Christian community is the only place in the world where sin has no future.
The second episode is developed in more detail. It describes how a disciple arrives personally at faith in the resurrection. In this way John wanted to show that it was not the testimony of the disciples (20, 25) but the Risen One in person who guided his witnesses to faith in Him. He also shows, at the same time, that those who come later will not require a special intervention in order to believe. The testimony of the apostles will suffice. Thomas, one of the twelve (11, 6; 14,5) personifies the inability of the first disciples to accept the fact that Jesus had risen. This episode also highlights the difficulty facing the second generation of Christians who will have to believe without proof. Thomas was not with the others when Jesus came (20, 24). His insistence on touching and seeing, on feeling with his own hands, in order to identify and believe (20, 25; 4,48. Lk 24, 37) is linked to the way he understood the final resurrection of our bodies. He did not see it as impossible, but he laid down conditions before he could believe. In reality, Thomas did not ask for anything more than what Jesus had already granted the other disciples (20, 20; 20,18.25). But it is one thing to receive the gift and quite another thing to demand it. Jesus gave him what he asked for in order to believe (20, 27) but he made no concession in his response. The further believers are removed from the events of the resurrection, the greater opportunity they have to be happy believers. That warning and that promise are directed to all who hear the gospel. It is possible to believe without touching and without proof. And this is the faith that makes us happy.
Meditate: apply what the text says to life
John recalls what happened on the evening of that first day when Jesus, newly risen, had to lead his disciples out of their fear and doubt and convince them that he was really alive. That was the day when Christianity was born. Recalling today our origins, the moment of the founding of our faith and of our life in common, should lead us to rediscover the mission for which we, as Christians, were born. There were two missionary tasks in particular given that day to those who knew that Jesus was alive. If we can make them our own, at a distance of two thousand years, it will guarantee that, with the Risen Lord, we too will discover the experience that is the basis of our Christian faith. This is our opportunity!
The first disciples were closed in their fears and in their homes, even though Jesus was already risen. Fear of the Jews compelled them to stay together and to share their uncertainty. They were so alarmed by what had happened to Jesus that they could not imagine that God had already intervened on his behalf. Jesus had to present himself full of life and he gave them a task. He sent them into the world with his Spirit as viaticum – food for the journey – and forgiveness of sins as their mission. It was a strange mission to entrust to men who had run away from the world and could not hide their fear! They were filled with joy on seeing again the Lord for whom they had grieved, but it was the gift of his Spirit and the mandate to forgive sins that freed them from their fear and changed their lives. Jesus breathed on them and created new possibilities in them. These men who had been unable to go out of the house for fear that they would die like their Lord and Master, were now transformed into fearless witnesses of his resurrection. In accepting the mission to bring pardon to the world that previously they had feared so much, they received the Spirit of the Risen Jesus. They also rose that day, to forgive the world!
Do we not see ourselves mirrored in those disciples who preferred to live, trapped by their fears, avoiding contact with a hostile environment, and by that very attitude running the risk of not meeting the Risen Lord, and losing the opportunity to regain their joy? We run the risk of becoming like those first disciples, and the risk of losing our enthusiasm and the joy of being Christians. Jesus is alive! He is risen! As Christians we live to proclaim our faith in him, without fear or complexes. It is just not possible to know that Jesus is risen and live as if he were still dead. If we really believe that Jesus is alive, we have no right to remain silent, closing ourselves in our houses and running away from giving testimony. If we are silent about what we have experienced, we condemn Jesus to anonymity and we rob the world of God’s pardon.
We make the resurrection of Jesus useless if we cover up our faith and conceal our Christian life, and live as if the living one were dead. To know that he is alive for ever is the greatest joy for those who thought he was absent and dead. If we are certain of this, we will never be discouraged by the hostility of the environment or the apparent absence of the Lord. We know that we can count on the Spirit of the Risen Lord and we can face those who look down on us because of our faith.
And not only that: the witnesses of the Risen Jesus know that they are sent into a hostile world with the precise task of pardoning it. Jesus is risen to a new life without end. He has conquered sin and death, hatred and division. For this very reason, his witnesses cannot limit themselves to proclaiming him by word. They have to perform new deeds, and there is nothing more new, more life-giving, more divine than the offer of universal forgiveness.
The Christian who cannot forgive is not a living witness of the resurrection. It does not matter what evils the world may have caused him, because his capacity for forgiveness does not depend on the evil suffered but on the mandate of Jesus and the gift of his Spirit.
The pardon we succeed in giving and the peace we restore will be the best proof of the resurrection of Jesus. If there is one thing needed in our world, in our society and in our hearts, it is to live reconciled, inwardly at peace, healed in the very depth of our being. Only the Christian, certain as he is that Jesus is alive, can count on the power and the duty to forgive others. If we Christians today do not take seriously the mission given us by the Risen Jesus, we lose not only his Spirit but also the very reason for our being in the world.
If, wherever there exists a Christian, there is not a reason for peace among men, a step towards reconciliation, a renewed offer of forgiveness, then Jesus has risen in vain. Perhaps what happened to Thomas is happening to us. He could not believe that Jesus was alive because he had not seen him personally. We feel a certain sympathy for this apostle who wanted to touch with his hands in order to believe with his heart! His incredulity is familiar to us and we remember it because of the “reproof” he received from Jesus. And even though Thomas expressed a most beautiful and sincere formula of faith, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus very quickly told him that it is better to believe without seeing than to profess faith after being given proof.
To be witnesses of Jesus in the world, knowing that we have been sent to bring pardon, it is not important to have seen him, but to know that he is alive. Bringing peace and reconciliation is the practical and effective way of believing in the resurrection of Jesus. We will know that Jesus is alive without needing to touch his risen body, and we will feel in our hearts his life-giving breath, if we live by the pardon we have received and if we give life through deeds of reconciliation among men. The Christian who has used his hands to pardon has no need to touch the Risen Lord. He lives by his Spirit and for his mission. Nothing else is needed in order to believe. Happy are we if we know that Christ is alive. We live at peace in ourselves and we bring peace to the world!
Prayer: desire that what I have heard be done in me.
Lord, when you came among your disciples after your resurrection, you gave them your peace and your Spirit, and you sent them to the world. From this encounter your Church was born and the world had someone to bring pardon. Come to us again, Lord, for the world still needs forgiveness and we need the joy of knowing that you are alive. Come to us again, Lord, for we are closed in our fears and in our silence. Fill us with your Spirit and send us again to bring pardon. Our world today has great need of pardon and peace, and the Church has need of your Spirit.
We continue, like Thomas, to want to touch to be able to trust you, to see you alive and to know that you are risen. Allow me to cling to you so that I may not fall under the weight of my doubts. Touch my heart and make me believe. Never allow me to stop living in the community of the apostles, even if I am imprisoned by my fears. In whatever situation I find myself, fill me with peace and with your Spirit. And if I am not there when you come, come back again and find me, my Lord and my God.