Second Sunday of Easter – Cycle C
Sunday of Divine Mercy
1st Reading: Acts 5: 12-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-2
2nd Reading: Revelations 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
Gospel: John 20: 19-31
This story is such a favorite that it is read on this Sunday all three years of the lectionary cycle. The greeting of “Peace be with you” was significant for the Jews. This was a sign. They had expected the Messiah to usher in a period of peace and co-existence. The promised reign of God was at hand.
Imagine hearing those words coming from the Lord. Here is your God who has literally been to hell and back for you and he’s offering YOU peace? He still speaks those words to you today.
We heard from two different “Johns” in the readings on Sunday. The gospel author had a specific agenda for this writing. He wanted to show that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. It was (and still is today) appealing to worship the glorified Jesus: Divine, miracle worker, etc. But Jesus identified and re-introduced Himself to those who knew Him best by His physical wounds. This reminds us that the exalted status has roots in the humiliating death.
All middle-easterners who immigrate to the United States would be right at home in Missouri; the “Show Me” State. Deception and lying were quite common at this time, and Thomas (nor anyone else for that matter) did not want the wool to be pulled over his eyes. I would claim that deception and lying are quite prevalent in our society today as well. We all are Thomases and most of the time, rightfully so. We call our most common form of deception the media.
Think back to the Lazarus story. It was Thomas who was brave and willing to follow Jesus to Lazarus’ tomb, but was doubtful even then of what would happen once they arrived. (John 11: 1-16) Doubt is sometimes a precursor to committed faith. Do not be afraid of it. Every one of us has experienced “believing without seeing.” This time we are among the ‘blessed.’ This story is a very typical experience of doubt, struggle, and faith.
Hearing this gospel in years past, I’ve imagined Thomas probing Jesus’ hands and physically feeling his wounds. But one year it dawned on me that the gospel doesn’t say Thomas actually touched the wounds. I guess that was me putting myself in the role of Thomas. What would I have done? It’s important to understand that faith did not come because Thomas touched the wounds. It came at Jesus’ invitation. Thomas believes only when he hears Jesus’ call for himself. It is not his eyes or his physical touching of wounds. Faith comes from hearing and listening. Our challenge is to have faith without touching the wounds.
There is a small tribe in South America which gives the most esteemed member the most critical job in the community. He is the “keeper of the flame.” If any of you have been a boy/girl scout, (or had children in those organizations) you probably know how difficult it is to start a fire from scratch. It is much easier to keep it going once it has been started. The "keeper of the flame" would have to feed it fuel (such as wood, leaves, etc.) and make sure that it did not extinguish. Jesus’ appearance in this gospel was to prepare His disciples to be the “keepers of the flame.” Even though He would be leaving soon to ascend to heaven, the fire started by His life, death, and resurrection must not be extinguished. He must continue to teach, preach, heal and save mankind and He will do it through the “keepers of the flame.” His new body would be composed of believers; all of us. They (and we) become Christ’s hands, feet, heart and life upon Earth, The Body of Christ. This visit transformed 11 terrified apostles into courageous “keepers of the flame.” We will talk more about the transformative power of the Holy Spirit around Pentecost, but for now, you can be open to that power in your own life today. This is the season to hear the call and to respond.
We STILL gather on the “first day of the week” to experience the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Remember the final paragraph in today’s gospel.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”
An empty tomb cannot “prove” the resurrection. What kinds of experiences confirm your belief in Christ’s resurrection?
What is belief? What is believable? How does one come to faith?
To what degree do you think God has left the world to run along on its own appointed course?
Do you believe in miracles? If so, what kind of things do you consider to be miracles? How can miracles happen without disturbing the proper order of the universe?