Chapter Talk – Second Sunday of Easter – April 16, 2023, cycle-A
This is Divine Mercy Sunday, and it is the Second Sunday of Easter. This gospel is always given for the Eucharist following Easter. It describes two encounters: the first is the appearance of Jesus to the disciples where he first says, ‘peace be with you’, then he shows his wounds, finally he breathes his own Spirit upon them and sends them out with the gospel message of ‘forgiveness’. The second encounter is between Jesus and Thomas who was absent for the first appearance and who would not believe unless he saw for himself and could place his finger in the wounds of Jesus. His resurrection faith had not yet been realized….His doubts, fears and confusion dominated his nascent faith. But this does not stop Jesus from entering again into the heart of where the disciples were gathered as their faith began to emerge in new ways.
There is much for us ‘would be’ disciples to learn from this resurrection gospel. The first encounter to the disciples Jesus says, ‘peace be with you’. In the midst of the loss, he is bestowing ‘peace’. Then, he shows his wounds. Why accent his wounds in this encounter? It is as though Jesus were saying there is no resurrected life without the cross. And don’t forget this. What follows after this exhortation is once again Jesus’ words, ‘Peace be with you’. He then breathes on them, giving the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that he has embodied he is now giving. And with a missioning work: proclaim forgiveness, live and share forgiving love to all people…give your lives for this message.
Then comes the next the encounter with Thomas who has been struggling with doubts. Jesus begins again with the greeting of ‘peace’, bestowing peace as his greeting. He then tells Thomas to put his fingers in his wounds. What a graphic encounter to say the least!!! Thomas is humbled as his resurrection faith is finally born within his being and consciousness. Pope Francis said: “The Lord is not looking for perfect Christians; the Lord is not looking for Christians who never doubt and always flaunt a steadfast faith. When a Christian is like that, something isn’t right. No, the adventure of faith, as for Thomas, consists of lights and shadows. Otherwise, what kind of faith would that be? It knows times of comfort, zeal and enthusiasm, but also of weariness, confusion, doubt and darkness. The Gospel shows us Thomas’ “crisis” to tell us that we should not fear the crises of life and faith” (Angelus, April 24, 2022). Faith, believing is an adventure. We can never take it for granted. Life places crosses before each of us personally and for our communities. Trials, wounds do not have the last word. This is the great paradox of Christian faith, for they are gateways into authentic life and love.
These words of Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar define the peace that Jesus brings. He writes: “Jesus wishes for his disciples the peace that he himself is…He backs this up by showing them his wounds. It is precisely the deadly work that people have done to him which is the foundation for the peace that emanates from him. Hatred has raged against him, but his love had the greater stamina” (Light of the Word, p.185). We can imagine what Thomas was struggling with in his faith. Grace comes with faith. For peace, for love, for forgiving love to expand, there is struggle, there is surrender, there is a ‘death’ that is often asked. We are implicitly asked by this gospel, do we have enough faith in Divine love, in the reality that God’s love is stronger than death? Jesus’ love had the greater stamina…As we encounter him, will our faith, our love have just enough stamina to not let darkness over power our lives? Christians are to be people of the resurrection. This places us in the center of paradox where the cross yields to resurrected life. Jesus goes before us as the embodiment of forgiving love, and we have Thomas as our brother who is learning about a living faith and who in the end will know authentic peace, love, and forgiveness.
Sr. Katy DeVico, Abbess