Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020 – cycle-A
‘Peace be with you’…as Jesus says these consoling words, he shows his disciples his wounds. What is this saying? The Risen One is not separate from his wounds; he is not separate from suffering, a suffering that opens the way for Life, Life in its fullness. A second time Jesus says, ‘Peace be with you’ and he adds ‘as the Father has sent me, so I send you. He breathes forth on his disciples and then says: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. And Jesus adds, with the power of the Holy Spirit, you, my disciples, now have the power to forgive sins. Does this not bring us to our knees? This is how Jesus is with us now and this is how we are to continue his mission.
What I am struck by in this appearance in John’s gospel is the flow of events: first Jesus says ‘peace be with you’ and then he shows his wounds…A second time he says ‘peace be with you’, and then through his breath he gives the Holy Spirit with the power to forgive sins. Both are ONE piece…His wounds open us to mercy…His wounds break our wounded hearts open to receive the mercy that flows from him…How striking that mercy and forgiveness of sins is connected to Jesus’ Resurrection…There is no life says the Risen One without mercy and forgiveness…This message must continue to be voiced and lived by all Jesus’ disciples and that includes us. We are a people of the Resurrection, which means we are also people ready to live from the mercy of God and to mission this to one another.
This first part of the gospel that I have been speaking about is its own pericope: Thomas is absent and misses this appearance. In the next episode of this gospel narrative, Thomas is now present, and he states he will not believe unless he can put his finger in Jesus’ wounds. Is it just Thomas’ experience of touching Jesus’ wounds that makes him believe, or is it, rather, that in touching Jesus’ wounds he experiences the unconditional love and mercy that comes forth from Jesus’ wounds? If we ponder our own experience of God’s mercy and forgiveness, does it not deepen our own faith? Does it not open the eye of the heart to perceive the presence of the Risen One?
It is clear that Thomas’ way of seeing and believing is not to be our way…There is another way of ‘seeing and believing’ and this other way is to be our way. Dom André Louf states: “Blessed are those who believe without having seen! In them…the power of Easter bears fruit day after day. Those who have not seen the empty tomb, who never met Jesus in the garden, who never heard the sound of his voice, who could never put their hands in his wounds, see very differently since it has been given to them to believe before seeing: they will see in the measure in which they have believed” (Mercy In Weakness, p.141). We will never see ‘literally’ as is described in this gospel appearance to Thomas in the upper room. How does faith, then, open the horizons of heart and mind and enable us to ‘see’?
He is recognized in the breaking of the bread….and, he is recognized in and through his wounds…When we experience mercy within ourselves and when we experience it within others, what is it that we see or realize? Do we not ‘see’ the Resurrected One, ever so quietly present within mercy, present within forgiveness? Our hearts become open, soft, expansive. What once made them hard and closed, and not believing is suddenly gone. We sense the God reality, the love and mercy that pulsates with our every heartbeat. We know from within that the experience of mercy brings us into the heart of Christ.
One last point to note: this appearance happened in community…And Thomas’ doubting was right in the center of their nascent community. The Spirit breathed upon all of them…When one of us is faltering in faith, we, the rest of the community, are there to witness to the Presence of the Risen One…Together we are there to pray ‘My Lord and My God’…I do believe, help my little faith to grow.
One essential ingredient to our believing is the experience of mercy. In Pope Francis’ words: “Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form by which we make Jesus’ Resurrection visible” (Angelus, April 23, 2017). Our faith, our believing is visibly seen through experiences of God’s mercy in our lives.
The Risen One hovers over our lives right now, especially during these very uncertain times not only with the ongoing threat of the Covid-19 virus but also with the economic impact on so many people. Let our believing, our hope, our prayer together ripple out to our world…to the so many in need. Amen.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess