Easter II, 11 Apr 21
Today`s Gospel reading from St. John 20 verses 19-31 is very striking indeed and brings home a number of points.
Let us, first of all, take ourselves back to Good Friday where we find a great absence of the Apostles, Peter the chief of the Apostles had denied his Lord, Judas in despair having sought the wrong kind of Messiah took his own life in shame after returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver to the Temple authorities- only St. John who, it seems, was the closest to Jesus of the Twelve, was to remain at The Cross, together with Mary the Mother of the Lord, and at a short distance, according to St. Mark, were Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Joses and Salome, the men had gone clearly frightened for their lives.
According to St. John, as we heard in Easter Day`s Gospel, Mary Magdalene had told Peter and John and possibly others that she had seen the Lord. Today`s Gospel set in what might well have been the Upper Room where Jesus had gathered the Twelve for the Passover Supper we find the Twelve, less Judas Iscariot who had already committed suicide and also no sign of Thomas. We can be assured they were a very frightened bunch. If the authorities could take their Master, Jesus, and crucify Him what might the authorities do to them ? It would seem that the Ten had locked themselves in for security and would have likely been discussing what they might do next when, through the locked door, Jesus came and stood among them! St. John records that on seeing the Lord they were filled with Joy. On his appearing to them He gave the traditional Jewish greeting, “Shalom” or “Peace be with you.” And when he had shown them his hands and his side, to reveal his wounds, He repeated the greeting “Shalom”. Hardly having completed His second greeting he gave them two commissions:
The first: `As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.` indicating that they were to carry on His work of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.
The second, after breathing on them, saying: `Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.`
We are told that Thomas was not there on that Easter Night and that when he returned and was told how Jesus had appeared to the Ten he refused to believe them.
Just a week later, as today, we find Jesus appearing once again in the same room in a very similar way and greeting the eleven, Thomas being with them this time, with the same word “Shalom” and then turning to Thomas, the doubter, saying: `Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.` It would seem that the joyful and adoring response of Thomas was instant when he replied, `My Lord and my God!` It is then that we find Jesus saying to Thomas, `You believe because you can see me. Happy (or Blessed) are those who have not seen and yet believe,`
The whole episode is a great source of encouragement to all who seek to follow Jesus in whatever age just as it is a loving retort to Thomas who had doubted His Lord who, perhaps, had almost
thrown in the towel as far as his belief was concerned.
The story reflects on the eternal Mercy of God as he both has commissioned the apostles to continue His work and gives his authority by the gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins – and in no uncertain terms: `For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.` A gift that is not confined to the apostles alone but to all Bishops and Priests in succession to them that the Saviour`s generous work of mercy continues for all time.
St. Luke in chapter 4 of The Acts of the Apostles shows just what an affect the Christian life had on early converts when he writes that `The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord and that none of their members were 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.`
The generosity of God and a vision of Jesus the Merciful to Sister Faustina, a Polish Nun from Krakow gave rise to this second Sunday of Easter to be named Divine Mercy Sunday. And there is a wonderful Shrine to Jesus the Merciful in Lagiewniki in Krakow which had been dedicated by the late Pope St. John Paul II. Not unlike the Sacred Heart but rays, as of Blood and Water flowing from the Heart of Jesus and a simple sentence of devotion is `JESUS, I TRUST YOU`