Homilies for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday go to RECENT POSTS.
Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very heart of Christianity. St. Paul tells us that if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith. For the disciples the Resurrection of Jesus was a unique divine experience. They were not able to comprehend the fact of Resurrection and grasp the deep inner meaning of it. However it built up their faith particularly because of their experience of the presence of Jesus and made them persons, courageous and ready to face any eventuality for their master. Jesus stood among them, talked to them ate with them and taught them the doctrine. They are now called upon to build the faith of others and we see how marvelous the living faith of the early Church was. The baptized Christians once they knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had resurrected from the dead, became totally transformed persons. They were ready to face any suffering and even death as it was Christ that was important. Once Jesus had resurrected by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, it did not take Him long to firmly establish the Mystical Body the Church as the continuation of his mission on earth. Resurrection becomes the uniting factor, building the mystical body of Christ.
First Reading of today tells us of the healing ministry of the Apostles. Immediately after the resurrection of Jesus, they became persons totally transformed. Jesus worked many signs and miracles through them. People in Jerusalem too once they saw their work held them in high esteem. The result of their work was that the community increased in numbers. People also believed in the power of the Apostles and brought the sick and infirm so that they could ouch them or even their shadow fall on them. While several were healed many more joined them in the community. The second reading taken from the Book of Revelation speaks of the visions of John who comes as the consoler to the suffering church of Jerusalem. John the author tells the community that Jesus will ultimately conquer all universes and come out victorious. He shares with them his pains and sufferings as one who has experienced them. He now gives them the symbolic description of Christ in glory. He is the one who is resurrected and will be there for ever.
The Gospel passage is familiar and remarkable passage that describes the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the assembled disciples. The text stresses the fear felt by the Twelve, even though it doesn’t specify precisely what their fear consisted of. Perhaps they were afraid of the Jews because the Jews suspected them of stealing the body. Or they might have been scared of them as persons who would continue a kind of movement that originated from Jesus. In the midst of this fear and uncertainty Jesus appears, calms their fears, and gives them the Spirit and a mission. Again a week later, he appears again to them to convince a doubting Thomas. The theme of the passage indicates how belief is confirmed first by touching, then by seeing and then by neither touching nor seeing. In other words the author is trying to create a sort of chain from those who were actually present with Jesus to those of us who must believe without seeing. He does this through the instrument of Thomas. But the Thomas theme appears in the midst of an even greater theme–that of the giving of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.
The Gospel reading places us in an atmosphere of surprise, fear and wonder, unable to see and visualize the presence of Jesus as he suddenly appears before them. It we come suddenly and go away from them the same way. Yet he is there with them, eats with them, talks to them and teaches them. They had witnessed his cruel death just two days ago. The disciples now are inside the house, with the doors firmly locked, because they are terrified that, as companions of Jesus, they too will be liable to arrest and punishment. The words of assurance they had been given by Jesus, earlier were all forgotten. Suddenly, there is Jesus standing in their midst and he is there in spite of the fact the doors were locked, indicating that he is present in a new way. He greets them with the words, “Peace with you!” a normal Jewish greeting of “Shalom”. This is a special moment where he continues from last supper. He shows them his hands and his feet with the mark of the nails. He teaches them about himself. At the Last Supper he had taught them. But it was not clear to them at all. Now he teaches in a new way. Repeating his greeting of peace, he proceeds to give them their mission: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” There is no critical word of their failure to stand by him in his final moments, about their running away and leaving him alone. His warmth of friendship continues.
At this juncture Jesus does something more to them: he gives them Peace; he gives them the Holy Spirit. The Gospel says that he breathed on them. The breath of life was there at creation and will be there till the end of times. It is also the breath of the Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son and he calls them to share by saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Together with the gift of the Spirit is the mission, to forgive and to build a new community. He tells them: “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” It is a simple mission but contains the call to build the kingdom of heaven. Their task is to bring about the reconciliation of all with their God, with their brothers and sisters and with the whole of creation. They are called upon to build a new family. The result of it is in the Acts, they were of one mind and one heart.
Today’s Gospel continues with the second part that contains the second apparition of Jesus which is equally important for us. On the first day when Jesus had come to them, one of the apostles, Thomas was missing from among them. When his companions tell him that they had seen the Lord and had eaten with him, he would not believe. He needed the real proof of the wounds nails on his hands and feet and the wound in Jesus’ side. The disciples knowing Thomas leave him alone. During next appearance, Jesus calls Thomas forward and shows himself. The reaction of Thomas is the word of Faith which we repeat so often, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas is called to believe in Jesus. Ironically, too, it is an act of faith not merely for Thomas but for all. It was not Thomas who was doubtful and without faith. In fact he was the man of faith and not the rest of them. He only said if Jesus is raised and is alive, then why are you hiding? You should go out to the main streets and proclaim. The way you are hiding does not make me believe that he is alive.
But Jesus accepts Thomas as he accepted others. He is not the one to linger on their failures. He accepts Thomas and his faith and adds something more: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.” These words indeed apply to us. We have not seen Jesus and yet have believed. Jesus accepts our faith as he did of Thomas. Finally, we are reminded that everything that is in the Gospel is to help us to come to that stage of faith by which we believe “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” who shares his life with us.
We find three ideas in today’s gospel: Spirit to Mission, Seeing to Believing and Not Seeing to Believing. First Jesus gives them Peace, not like the world gives but his own peace. Then he gives them the gift of the Spirit, which coming from the Father and who will teach them everything, and remind them of what Jesus had said. Then he breathes on them and gives them the mission to forgive and love and build the church. Second we have Thomas who saw and he believed. Jesus offers Thomas his very presence to see but what is significant is that Thomas confesses “My Lord and my God” apparently without placing his hands into Jesus’ side. His faith is complete and total. Then the final stage it continues to those of us, those hundreds of thousands who have not seen Jesus and yet believed in him. This has been our faith of not seeing and yet believing. We are all included in such a standard and we have the faith in the risen Lord.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of the Easter season. It was named by Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Maria Faustina on April 30, 2000, and then officially decreed by the Vatican. Divine Mercy Sunday can be seen as the convergence of all the mysteries and graces of Holy Week and Easter Week. The feast focuses the light of the Risen Christ into a radiant beam of merciful love and grace for the whole world. In his revelations to St. Faustina Jesus expressed His desire to celebrate this special feast. He says that the Feast of Mercy emerged from his very depths of tenderness and mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of his Mercy. Jesus says that the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened and let no soul fear to draw near to him, even though his sins be as scarlet because the Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of his tenderness.
Fr Eugene Lobo SJ, Rome.