‘Peace be with you,’ says the Lord. ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ John 20:21
whose absence leaves us in despair
but whose presence is overwhelming:
breathe on us with your abundant life,
that where we cannot see
we may have courage to believe
that we may be raised with you.
- Acts 4:32-37
- Psalm 133
- 1 John 1:1-2:2
- John 20:19-31
- Acts 3:12-20
- Psalm 4
- 1 John 2:15-17, 3:1-6
- Luke 24:36b – 48
A Thought to Ponder
Easter 2 – John 20:19-31
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he said this he breathed upon them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit …” Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (for all three years of the Lectionary cycle) is “act 2” of John’s Easter drama.
Scene 1 – takes place on Easter night. The terrified disciples are huddled together, realising they are marked men because of their association with the criminal Jesus. The Risen Jesus appears in their midst with his greeting of “peace.” John clearly has the Genesis story in mind when the evangelist describes Jesus as “breathing” the Holy Spirit on his disciples: Just as God created man and woman by breathing life into them (Genesis 2: 7), the Risen Christ re-creates humankind by breathing the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the eleven.
In scene 2 – the disciples excitedly tell the just-returned Thomas of what they had seen. Thomas responds to the news with understandable scepticism. Thomas had expected the cross (see John 11: 16 and 14: 5) – and no more.
The climactic third scene – takes place one week later, with Jesus’ second appearance to the assembled community – this time with Thomas present. He invites Thomas to examine his wounds and to “believe.” Christ’s blessing in response to Thomas’ profession of faith exalts the faith of every Christian of every age who “believes without seeing”; all Christians who embrace the Spirit of the Risen One possess a faith that is in no way different less than that of the first disciples. The power of the Resurrection transcends time and place.
We trace our roots as parish and faith communities to Easter night when Jesus “breathed” his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples, transforming them into the new Church.
The “peace” that Christ gives his new Church is not a passive sense of good feeling or the mere absence of conflict. Christ’s peace is hard work: the peace of the Easter Christ is to honour one another as children of the same Father in heaven; the peace of the Easter Christ seeks to build bridges and find solutions rather than assigning blame or extracting punishment; the peace of Christ is centred in relationships that are just, ethical and moral.
Jesus’ entrusting to the disciples the work of forgiveness is what it means to be the church: to accept one another, to affirm one another, to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ. What brought the apostles and first Christians together as a community – unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, reconciliation and healing – no less powerfully binds us to one another as the Church of today.
All of us, at one time or another, experience the doubt and scepticism of Thomas: While we have heard the good news of Jesus’ empty tomb, all of our fears, problems and sorrows prevent us from realising it in our own lives. In raising his beloved Son from the dead, God also raises our spirits to the realisation of the totality and limitlessness of his love for us.
In insisting on placing his hands in Jesus’ nail marks before believing Jesus had been raised from the dead, Thomas is no different than we are: Thomas wants something he can touch; he wants a tangible sign of Jesus’ resurrection. After the horrific week since Jesus’ crucifixion, he wants more than a metaphor. Thomas wants real life, life perfected and re-created by God. And Jesus acquiesces. The Crucified Jesus lives again — in us. Our compassionate presence to one another, our embrace of one another in peace and respect, our commitment to the Gospel work of reconciliation and justice are all tangible signs of Jesus’ resurrection.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows them his hands and his side; later he invites the doubting Thomas to touch the marks made by the nails and the gash from the soldier’s lance. We all have scars from our own Good Fridays that remain despite our small resurrections. Our “nail marks” remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and suffering, all disappointments and anguish, are transformed into healing and peace in the love of God we experience from others and that we extend to them. Compassion, forgiveness, justice — no matter how clumsily offered — can heal and mend.
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