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Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday of Divine Mercy - Year A - Apr 27, 2014

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


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Second Sunday of Easter - Year A - Apr 27, 2014
Gospel JN 20:19-31

Interesting Details:
• This is the end of the Gospel of John. Chapter 21 following this is an appendix or epilogue. The last verse shows the purpose of the gospel: that we can believe in Jesus and have life.
• The vocation of a patriarch or prophet (Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, Jesus' disciples) often has 5 stages. Here is the pattern:
1. INTRODUCTION: the setting is in a house with locked door;
2. CONFRONTATION (Jesus appeared), REACTION (disciples are shocked), and REASSURANCE ("Peace be with you");
3. COMMISSION: "I send you";
4. OBJECTION: by Thomas;
5. REASSURANCE (Jesus appears again) and SIGN ("examine my hands").

One Main Point:
Jesus returns in his glory, as he has promised. Some other promises are also fulfilled, such as joy (Jn 14:19; Jn 16:16-24) and peace (Jn 14:27).

1. What are the stages or stepping-stones in my following Christ?
2. What (or who) has helped me to believe in Jesus and have life?
3. Can I be a living Gospel so that others can believe in Jesus and have life?


Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday of Divine Mercy - Year A - Apr 27, 2014

(Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31 )

In a college philosophy course the topic of the day was, "What distinguishes humans from animals?" The answer the class came up with was that humans are tool makers. Well that was before Jane Good all and subsequent researchers in animal behavior noted that animals are toolmakers too. I saw a documentary recently about a chimp trimming and then using a thin twig as a tool. He poked it down an anthill and withdrew it covered with ants, which he ate, then he repeated working with the twig for more – delicious – well at least for a chimp. That chimp certainly looked like a toolmaker to me.

Someone in the class said that the ability to laugh distinguished us from animals because we can see contrasts. There was a "New Yorker" magazine cover a while back that showed passengers on an airplane stuffing luggage into the overhead compartments. One passenger was stuffing a car into the compartment! See, we chuckle and a chimp just continues eating ants off its twig.

I’ll leave it to the philosophers to draw their conclusions about what distinguishes us humans. But, besides the ability to laugh at humor, I would add what marks us as humans is the vulnerability to be wounded and the ability to inflict wounds. Animals can hurt and scar one another, but we humans inflict and bear wounds — sometimes through our whole lives. We have a memory of happiness and joyful moments; but we can also trace through our memories the hurts inflicted on us and the ones we have put on others.

Physical violence has been done against us and words have been hurled at us like sharp edged stones. Often the hurtful words have been more painful and lasting than the physical hurts. At one time two people said, "I love you" to one another. A divorce lawyer told me about the intense and cruel words she heard the same two, once-loving people, hurl at each other in court.

Count the wounds and their various sources. For example, the world has taught us to compete against others – always striving to win in arguments, sports and at work. Vince Lombardi summed up, what some of us have learned, "Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing." We have also been taught standards of beauty which influence impressionable minds. How many school mates or young friends have eating disorders in a frantic attempt to match the models they see in magazines and on television?

As humans we have in common the ability to laugh at a good joke. Laughter draws us together over pizza and beer. But our wounds can leave us hiding behind locked doors, afraid to let anyone into those painful places we don’t want others to see, or even look at ourselves. Yet, we can be united by our wounds, for we share the same tears.

The community in the gospel had its wounds. For a while they were on cloud nine, riding high. They were the people closest to an exciting preacher, healer and reformer. Maybe he was even the king of Israel! Finally, the Messiah! But then they saw the evil that defeated him, crushed their hopes, destroyed their dreams and left them wounded. There were other wounds as well: the memory of their betrayal of the one they said they would follow to their death. Promises made and broken.

There was one thing they remembered; something Jesus did and taught them to do. He formed a community around him and his vision. So, the wounded, hurting individuals pulled themselves together enough to come back into the community – a fearful locked-up community, but a community nevertheless. It was into this hurting, defeated and disillusioned community that Jesus came with his words of forgiveness and healing: "Shalom," "Peace be with you."

In the scriptures, when Jesus offers peace, it is not a casual greeting, not the common "Peace man," of the 60's. When Jesus bids peace, his word brings the reality it announces – forgiveness, healing, and restoration. His word does what it says. The key for the disciples was when he showed them his wounds. This story doesn’t have him asking for bread or fish. He is not convincing them he is alive by eating. His wounds convince them who he is.

God is with us all the way; not just to share a meal and have a friendly chat. God, like us, knows the death of loved ones, broken promises and failed projects. Jesus suffered wounds that everyone said had finished him off; wounds that were defeating – yet he triumphed over them. But from today’s narrative we are reminded that Jesus never forgot his wounds – nor does he forget ours.

Like the disciples we gather back in community today. We bring the hurting parts of our lives and our failures to live as the disciples Jesus has called us to be. But not only our wounds, we bring the hurting parts of those we love, our sick and struggling ones. We also gather conscious of the world’s suffering – think Syria, Ukraine, the Middle East, our poor, those violated by clergy, the victims of the anti-Jewish shootings in Kansas, the wounded who just gathered to commemerate last year’s Boston Marathon attack, etc.

It is comforting to know that Jesus shares our lot. But more than that, he breathes his Spirit into us. We pray together as his community today. We will place the gifts on the altar. They represent us, as we are now. We will invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon them, to transform them. But also we ask the Spirit to breathe healing and forgiveness in us and our wounded world. We ask forgiveness for all the wounds we have inflicted and ask for the ability, little by little, to let go and forgive others.

The Easter readings have similar beginnings, "on the first day of the week." For example, next week Luke will tell us about the Emmaus disciples who were traveling on "the first day of the week." The gospels usually aren’t that fussy about days and hours of the day. Stories frequently begin, "After that Jesus went to...." "Early in the morning Jesus entered the Temple." Etc. We moderns want to ask, "What day of the week?" "What year? "At what hour?" If we are looking for that kind of precision in the stories we are almost always frustrated. It’s as if the gospel writer is saying, "That’s not the point."

But these Easter readings, despite the fact that the details get confusing (Were there two angels or one at the tomb? Did Mary Magdalene go alone, or with two other women?) we are told, it was "the first day of the week." Not just the day after the Sabbath, not just Sunday. But, it’s the "first day of the week." The biblical writers haven’t just become less ambiguous about dates and decided to be more precise. They are alluding to the first day of creation when God created light. So, John tells us today that Jesus appeared, "On the evening of that first day of the week." Now God’s light has pierced the darkness of the tomb, we need fear death’s finality no longer.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP