by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to 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 into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and he said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Jesus' resurrection from the dead opened the floodgates and unleashed a torrent of healing grace and wondrous deeds. Our precious Lord appeared to his disciples, healed them from sin and doubt, and sent them to every corner of the world to carry on his mission.
Immediately upon bursting out of the tomb on Easter Sunday, Our Lord visited his disciples who were battling fear and full of doubt. He wanted them to witness the reality of his victory over sin and death. He greatly desired to draw close to them and grant them a new encounter with the one who loved them like no other. So, the Good Shepherd sought them out when they were hiding and drew near to them when they were discouraged and running away. He called them literally to his pierced side when they were persisting in their doubts. How precious is Jesus' patience and gentleness with Thomas, who refused to believe the 10 apostles when they told him pointblank, "We have seen the Lord."
Our Lord, throughout history, does not stop visiting his friends in order to soothe doubt and offer encouragement. The second reading for today from the book of Revelation teaches that the risen Lord, some years after the resurrection, appeared to the Apostle John when he was exiled on the island of Patmos. John says, "When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, 'Do not be afraid.'"
After bringing healing and strength to his disciples, Jesus commissioned them to take up his mission of building the kingdom of love and truth. The disciples and their followers are quite surprised when they see what begins to happen as they speak and act in the name of the risen Jesus. St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, describes the activity of the early church in this way: "Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles."
As the disciples preached the good news, "great numbers of men and women were added to them" They visited towns and villages in Jesus' name and the sick were cured and unclean spirits were cast out. They were jailed for teaching the way of Christ and found the chains unexplainably dropping and prison doors miraculously opening for them.
One of the most remarkable ministries that Jesus shares with the church, and in particular, with the apostles, is the ministry of forgiving sins in his name. On the day of the resurrection, Jesus greets the apostles in the upper room, breathes on them, and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Even to this day, the world is shocked and often incredulous that Our Lord would grant to priests, sinful and unworthy human beings, the capacity to forgive sins in his name.
The second Sunday of Easter was recently designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope John Paul II. He was certainly motivated by today's Gospel as well as by the inspiration of St. Faustina Kowalska. The Lord appeared to this humble, Polish nun while adoring the Blessed Sacrament and invited her to spread devotion around the world to Divine Mercy. This devotion would focus on an image of Divine Mercy that he asked her to paint, the chaplet of Divine Mercy and a feast day that would proclaim with boldness Jesus' beautiful message and mission of mercy poured out from his pierced side.
Our Lord spoke powerful and tender words to St. Faustina. "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy." He also said, "Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion."
Devotion to Divine Mercy is, at its heart, an invitation to trust in Jesus: "I have opened My heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust."
May the beauty and power of Christ's resurrection and his work in the early church burst forth anew in our world today. May the risen Lord reveal himself in life-changing way to us, bring us healing of mind, body and spirit, and bestow upon us the courage to bring him and his good news into every corner of the universe.