15th April. 2nd Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:32-35. This paints a glowing picture of the first Christian community. It is a community ideally faithful to the Gospel message.
1 Jn 5:1-6. The Christian is a child of God. He shows his love for God by keeping his commandments.
Jn 20:19-31. By touching the wounds of the risen Jesus, Thomas’ doubt is turned into belief.
Theme: Belief and doubt are natural bed-fellows. By submitting to the requested test, Christ pardons Thomas’ doubt. We should never be afraid to question our faith.
Most of us know what it feels like to be left out. Just to recapture that experience, imagine … you have been out all day. When you come home (tired perhaps), you hear animated voices talking about something amazing that’s happened to them. You walk into the room. It’s energized with the three E’s – enthusiasm, excitement and exhilaration. At that moment, if even for a split second you taste a rising feeling of being left out. It is an understandable thing.
This imaginary scene might help us to understand Thomas a little more. For three demanding and enthralling years this small group had been an essential part of his life. When he entered the room that evening, Thomas knew that he had missed out on something that could well become one of the vital and defining moments of the group’s life. He tasted that rising feeling as it surfaced. And, as so often happens with these sorts of feelings, other reactions are triggered off.
The wonderful thing about this Gospel is how Jesus knows what Thomas (and we) need. In Thomas’s case, that missed moment was redeemed. As we gather to celebrate our Eucharist today, we too can experience the way in which Jesus redeems and fills all of our own missed moments.
Utterly New Reality
It is hardly surprising that all religions, by their nature, tend to be conservative, in other words they are always striving to preserve faithfully the truths and spiritual way of life which have been handed on to them. Even Christ himself said that he had come “not to destroy but to fulfil.” We could well ask ourselves then, why did the early Christians, who were mostly Jews, abandon the sacred tradition of their forefathers, and make Sunday, rather than Saturday, their day of weekly worship. And the fact that their reason for so doing was also regarded by the educated Greeks as “foolishness,” must make us wonder all the more – their reason being the firm conviction that on the Sunday after his death, God raised Jesus Christ from the grave. Their faith in this stupendous event defied all human thinking, but, notwithstanding, it survives to this day.
Each and every Sunday, as it comes around, is another link binding all of us with that event, something which of itself is a further proof of the resurrection. And at the end of every Sunday, all who recite the Divine Office say the following prayer, which concludes the hour called “Night Prayer:” “God our Father, as we have celebrated today the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection, free us from all harm, that we may sleep in peace and rise in joy to sing your praise.” Every Sunday Mass is a reaffirmation of our faith in the resurrection of Christ. We do not seek hind among the dead, as Mary Magdalene did on that first Easter morn, because he is living, he is with us, he becomes part of us in Holy Communion, or rather we become part of him.
What in God’s name was wrong with Thomas the twin? After his Resurrection, Our Lord made a most convincing appearance to his disciples. He was suddenly there in the midst of them – and in his risen body too – even though the doors were shut. Lest there be any doubt that here was only a ghost, or that this wasn’t the crucified one, he showed them his hands and his side. In many important respects they could see he was the “old Jesus” in that he showed them the kindness he had always shown and spoke with the same authority There was continuity here, not only of presence but of character and command. He wished them peace, breathed new life into them, gave them their mission. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent you, even so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22). The evidence for his appearance wasn’t confined to one person. There must have been a good few of the disciples there. Those who were frightened were certainly there anyway and that probably means them all. What happened in that room therefore was a multiple experience. Each of them was witness to it from a different perspective. They weren’t all looking at this “apparition” with the same deluded eye. Nor is it one bit likely that they all fell asleep together and that they all had the same dream. Oh no! I’d say the only conclusion to draw is that these people were awake alright and that the Risen Lord was among them.
Now if you knew a group of people intimately over three years, so that between you there was a special bond of trust, and if they told you what happened on that dramatic occasion and what Jesus had said and done in their presence, “would you believe them? I think you would. You’d like to have been there. You’d like to have seen it for yourself. But you’d hardly throw cold water on the whole thing.
Thomas did! He was a born pessimist. He was the kind of fellow to whom you’d love to give a good thump. If you were fishing with him and felt a pull and shouted excitedly, “Thomas, I think I’m on to something,” he’d be sure to say, “I’ll bet it’s an old wheel or an old shoe.” If you were to meet him during the week and you said, “Thomas, they were talking about you in the church last Sunday” even if he believed you, he’d say, “I’ll bet they were giving out!’
There are earlier hints in the Gospel of Thomas’s contrary nature. Intermingled with these are the undertones of pessimism. When Our Lord, against the wishes of his disciples, decided to go up to Jerusalem, it was Thomas who took a singular and rather gloomy stand. “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). Courageously but characteristically, he expected the worst. “When, on another famous occasion, to alleviate their loneliness, Jesus assured his disciples that in his dying he’d be entering into closer union with the Father and bringing them with him, Thomas remained unconvinced. “You know the way to the place where I am going,” Jesus said. In other words, you ought to know by now Maybe they ought – but not Thomas: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:4, 5). It’s not surprising then, when the others were full of Our Lord’s Resurrection, that Thomas should run true to form: “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands. . . and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe” (Jn 20:25).
If you happen to meet him during the week, tell him we were talking about him in the church alright. But tell him we weren’t giving out. Tell him we were praising him for two things. First, for being a bit of a sceptic like the rest of us. For reinforcing our faith. For further dispelling our doubt. For enabling us vicariously to put our fingers into the holes and our hand into the Lord’s side. Thomas needed the visual and the tactile. There’s a side of us that needs it too. In responding to Thomas’s scepticism, the Lord was considerate of us all. No scene in the Gospel gives more credence to the Resurrection than the one between Thomas and Our Lord. Because he gave the Lord the chance to spell it out and the rest of us the chance to take it in, Thomas, in his doubting, did us the favour of our lives. Deep in his doubt, there’s a root of our faith. Tell him as well that we were praising him for a second thing too – for giving us one of the shortest but loveliest prayers in all Scripture – more than an act of faith, an act of commitment and surrender: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). He won’t believe we were praising him, of course. He’ll be asking you for proof. We’ll just have to put up with that. In his scepticism is our strength.
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.
With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Second Reading: First Epistle of St. John 5:1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
Gospel: John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.