Easter 2, 24 Apr 22
Last week, on one of my home communion visits, I was talking with someone of about my own age of how, when were children people rarely locked their front doors and it was normal to trust people and very little idea that anyone might break in to steal. The doors were left unlocked just in case a neighbour suddenly needed something in the day or the night. Days that have long gone so much so that we have become security mad. There is hardly a ome today that does not have some sort of alarm or security system in place.
Today`s Gospel reading from St. John 20, verses 19-31 tells us, first of all, how the Lord` disciples were locked in the room for fear of the Jews. Jesus their Master and Lord had been crucified just a couple of days before and these followers were anxious to preserve their own lives. Suddenly Jesus, newly risen from the dead, bursts in and greets them with the traditional Jewish greeting `Shalom` or `Peace be with you`. As He greets them the Lord shows them his hands and his side revealing the marks of his crucifixion. John goes on to say that Jesus says, a second time, `Peace be with you` and continues with a commission, `As the Father sent me, so am I sending you and then, breathing on them, continues `Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, the are retained`
We are told that Thomas was not with the ten though no reason is given for his absence. When Thomas received the news that the ten had seen the Risen Lord he would not believe them saying that unless he could see the holes that the nails had made in the Lord`s hands and he could put his finger into the holes and his hand in the Lord`s side he would not believe. The testimony of the ten would NOT be sufficient for him.
As we have heard just a week later, the equivalent of today following Easter Day, the Lord again appeared. This time to the eleven for Thomas was with them. As before, and in accord with Jewish custom, Jesus again uses the greeting `Peace be with you` and without further ado addresses Thomas directly saying, `Put your finger here; look here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.` We don`t know whether Thomas actually did put his finger into the holes in the Lord`s hand or his hand into the Lord`s side. What we do know is that Thomas responded with the exclamation, `My Lord and my God! Jesus responded to Thomas with these words: `You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.` This generosity includes each one of us who have not yet seen the Lord face to face.
We notice how on that first Easter Sunday night when Jesus appeared to the Ten he breathed on them and gave them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins which gift has been passed on to Christian Bishops and priests from that time and, particularly, through the Sacrament of Confession and Absolution. It is sometimes referred to as the Power of the Keys for in it we are unlocked from the binding power of sin and set free.
This second Sunday of Easter also has the title Divine Mercy Sunday following a series of visions that a Polish Nun, St. Faustina, had of Jesus the Merciful. The vision of Jesus that she saw was not unlike the Sacred Heart except that where we see the flaming heart of Jesus surrounded by a Crown of Thorns she saw the standing figure of Jesus with rays of light in red and blue coming from where the heart of Jesus would be. We read that where Longinus, the Roman Centurion had pierced the side of Jesus to ensure that he was dead, there flowed out blood and water!
In a very important sense it is understandable that Thomas was so slow to believe. Like the others he had to deal with his grief but, it seems, had gone off on his own and, of course, he was not present when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the Ten in that Upper Room on Easter night.
Jesus the Merciful sought out Thomas, like the Good Shepherd looking for His lost sheep. Jesus the Merciful searches out for each one of us and brings us Home when we stray. He has given the Spirit to you and to me at Baptism, at Confirmation and every time we come to receive Jesus in His Body and Blood at the Mass. He shares with us the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Reconciliation. It is the same Spirit that enables us to say with Thomas, `My Lord and my God!`.
Thomas had missed out on that first appearance of the Lord to his fearful and failed disciples and his words of peace, forgiveness and encouragement. In many ways his absence, until Jesus catches up with Him a week later, is like so many in our own time who cut themselves off from the church, for whatever reason – and when we cut ourselves off from what is the community of believers, we lose out greatly. For all its flaws and failings, because its members – each of us – are sinners, the church is still the place where we encounter the Risen Lord who continues to stand among us His disciples especially when we gather together to worship and pray and when we gather to serve others in the Lord`s name and when we gather together at every Mass to `Do this in remembrance of me.`
The reading from chapter 5 of the Acts of The Apostles in those five verses is a great encouragement showing how the early church grew in number and how the apostles were effective in teaching and healing of the sick and in driving out unclean spirits from the possessed.