Lectio Divina: Second Sunday of Easter - Cycle A

on 13 Apr, 2023
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Bangalore (India), Sr. ANULA IRVIN SUGUNA, OP, April 16, 2023.- Stronger faith leads to deeper peace

Acts 2:42-47; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

The second Sunday of Easter is known by different names in different traditions. It is known as Mercy Sunday, Thomas Sunday and White Sunday. However, our faith is based on the witness of the Church, beginning with Thomas and the first disciples.

GOSPEL

 Jn 20: 19-31

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 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 disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

STUDY OF THE TEXT

After the disciples had discovered the empty tomb, Jesus appeared to the disciples on several occasions. The Gospel passage that is proclaimed today narrates two manifestations of the Risen Jesus, which took place between an eight-day interval. The Risen Christ appears when the disciples were together as a community. Faith is not an individualistic and personal affair. The presence of the Risen Christ is felt chiefly within a community or family gathered together.

The doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews (v.19). When John wrote this text, it was a time of fear and persecution. The disciples were afraid. Certainly, they were afraid of the Jewish leaders who were behind the plot to kill Jesus. They were afraid of their own lives, afraid of their uncertain future. Perhaps, the disciples were also afraid of Jesus. As Peter had denied Jesus three times and the rest of the disciples had deserted him except John the beloved disciple, perhaps they didn’t want to be confronted with their failures.

However, Jesus cannot be stopped by locked doors. He who is the very DOOR of the sheepfold, (Jn 10:7) comes through the locked doors, not to confront the frightened sheep but to grant them PEACE. It is the kind of peace that the world cannot give (Jn 14:27). Jesus appeared not in spirit but in bodily form. This bodily form was not easily recognized by the disciples. The resurrected body of Jesus was free from any physical constraints and it could pass through locked doors.

The Risen Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” It is a peaceful joy, a paschal joy, a true Christian joy. It is not an easy, spontaneous kind of joy, like the joy we feel when things are going right with us, when we are healthy, when we feel young and dynamic and when our projects succeed. But it is the joy that comes after experiencing fear. It is the fruit of faith in Jesus. After offering them this unassuming peace, Jesus sends the disciples on a mission. The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent’ (from Greek apostolos) and the word ‘mission’ also means ‘sending’ (from the Latin missio).

He also gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is the new creation (Gen 2:7). Pentecost is on the evening of Easter in the mind of John. The essential work of Jesus after his victory over death is the gift of the Spirit who has raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11). There is an integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness is a Paschal grace. When Jesus gives the Spirit, he also gives his disciples the power of “unbinding the evil that is within.” They become carriers of God’s mercy like Jesus. Jesus extends his mercy to Thomas who for some reason was absent and missed out the encounter with Jesus. Thomas expresses his desire to see the wounds of Jesus and Jesus shows up again to provide exactly what Thomas needs. Thomas on seeing Jesus, responds with the highest Christological confession “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). It is a confession of trust and relationship.
 

Jesus responds to Thomas with a blessing (20:29). It is a blessing for all those who will believe in Jesus, without seeing him in flesh and blood. The very purpose of the Gospel of John is to help us to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. This believing will lead us to eternal life (20:30-31).

MEDITATION

  • Journey from Fear and Anxiety to Joy. One could identify oneself with the disciples in their fear and doubt. The anxiety and fear in our lives can betray us. It can keep us locked in, as individuals, as communities and as congregations. It can hinder us from fulfilling the mission for which Jesus has called and sent us. It can paralyze us, taking our focus away from the risky mission for which we are called. The Gospel text promises us that Jesus cannot be stopped by locked doors. He comes right in the midst of fear, pain, doubt and confusion, bringing us His peace. He breathes into our anxiety, the breath of the Holy Spirit. He breathes the gift of understanding and joy that can overcome our anxiety and fear. Am I open to allow Jesus to enter into my closed DOOR and remove my fear, anxiety, doubt and confusion? Am I ready to experience the breath of the Holy Spirit who challenges me to break open my comfort zone of individuality and enter into communion with others?
  • Week after Week: Jesus came a week later when Thomas was with the community. Jesus keeps coming back week after week among the disciples (faithful) who are gathered in His name. He comes in the Word, the sacred species of Bread and Wine, the Priest and the assembly of the people of God, not wanting anyone to miss out the PEACE he gives to us. He keeps sending us out of our safe and locked rooms into a risky world that desperately needs PEACE and LIFE. Do I recognize his silent steps that come behind me and go before me? Am I resistant to the gift of PEACE that the Lord offers me? Can I be generous to give this PEACE to all around me?
  • Every Person is Precious: For Jesus, every person is precious. That’s why He went again to give a resurrection experience to Thomas. This shows us that when someone among us doubts and questions, we too are called to offer an understanding heart to the person and help the person to discover the deep path way to belief and understanding. The text urges me to understand others than condemning or judging others.
  • Sending and Giving the Spirit: It is the Spirit who will take us to the complexity of the world to respond to the mission effectively. Though we may not see the outcomes, the presence of the Spirit is important and He will help us to turn to the way where the people need us.

PRAYER

God of everlasting mercy, kindle the FAITH of your people whom you have chosen as your own. Bless us with your unfailing PEACE and FORGIVENESS, so that we may grow in understanding our fellow beings and live in communion. May we remain open to the promptings of your Holy Spirit who journey with us in our mission to reach out to the poor and needy.

CONTEMPLATION

The stronger my FAITH, the greater is my PEACE.
 
Lord deepen my little faith
 
The stronger is my “I”, the weaker my LIFE.

Lord, change my sense of “I” to a sense of “We”

The stronger my belief, the greater is my blessing.

Lord, you alone are my Lord and my God.