Homily for the second Sunday of Easter - Year B - John 20:19-31


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And 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; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


"Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." 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 believe."


"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."





Homily:


"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord."


Having been offered up once and for all on the wood of the Cross, Jesus is now forever alive: he is risen from the dead! After the terrible trial of death, after having undergone for three days the separation of his soul from his body (for this is what death means), Christ is forever alive in the Spirit. During his mortal life, the Holy Spirit already rested upon Jesus. But, through the resurrection of Christ, this same Spirit, who already sanctified his soul, and through the latter, his entire body, gave himself fully to him, and in particular to his body, in order to obtain for him the glory of the Father for all eternity.


Strengthened by the Gift of the Spirit, Christ is glorified in his soul and in his body: from now on he belongs to the world of glory, the world beyond our world! However, when he wants to, he can appear in our world: his body, spiritualized in the Spirit, then becomes visible to all those to whom he wants to appear. This is what took place on Easter evening, when the disciples were gathered together in the Cenacle: "Jesus came and stood among them."


"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And 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; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' "


Why does Jesus appear to his disciples? Did he not have enough time during his life to tell his disciples all they needed to know? Since Jesus is God, he knew everything, and he was certainly able to foresee everything, and so he could have foreseen the amount of time he would have required to teach the apostles while he was still alive. So why these apparitions? The answer is simple. During his mortal life, Jesus taught his disciples through his words, the "words of grace" (Lk. 4:22) he spoke in the Spirit: at that time, for the most part, it was the spirit and the soul of Christ which served as an intermediary for the Word, who revealed the Father. But, after his resurrection, Christ could make greater use of his glorified body in order to reveal the Life of the Father who sent him to live among us. The Word, the Son of the Father, having assumed all of human nature, both body and soul, it was necessary, in a certain sense, for the Father to be revealed to the world through the intermediary of both the body and the soul of Christ. This is what was achieved through the apparitions of the Lord to his disciples after he was resurrected from the dead.


So Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples, first by blowing on them, using his body, and then by speaking words he had conceived in his spirit: "Receive the Holy Ghost. The sins of those will be given to which will give them to you; the sins of those will be retained with which will retain them to you."


"Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.' Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.' 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 believe.' "


The case of Saint Thomas is proverbial. Everyone has heard of it. It almost forms part of the "modern" culture which issued from Christianity. Just about anyone, even if he is not a practicing Christian, will tell you: "I am like Saint Thomas! I must see to believe!" In short, everyone knows this story.


However, it is a marvellous story! For it is ours, that of the entire Church. Throughout her history, the Church benefitted from apparitions of the Lord, of the Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, which God sent in order to aid us in the weakness of our faith. In a sense, these apparitions are not necessary. However, in view of our wretchedness, our tendency to fall into discouragement, and all the other results of Original Sin, the superabundant mercy of the Heart of Jesus never fails to provide the children of God with help: the apparitions of the Saints strengthen the weakness of the small, those who are in danger of faltering in their faith.


Yes! It is a marvellous story! That of the Heart of our God! For here, once again, the body of Christ is where the Revelation of the Love of the Father for all men, especially those who are discouraged, takes place. Saint Thomas put his hand in the side of Christ, he touched his sacred Heart, and he thereby received a torrent of graces and delights which made him a true apostle of the Resurrection and a martyr of the faith in the Son of God.


"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."


When Jesus appears, he does so to strengthen our faith. For an apparition of the Lord, or of the Blessed Virgin, for example, never lasts a long time. Most often it lasts only for a brief moment, and then remains forever etched in the memory of those who saw it. But afterwards, those who had witnessed the apparition must continue to believe, in good times and bad. This was so in the case of the apostles. They saw the Lord Jesus risen from the dead, and then, thanks to the Spirit who resided in their heart, they believed always in Jesus the Son of God, alive forever and ever. Following them, the Church also believes in the Resurrection of Christ: following all the apostles, following Saint Thomas, strengthened by the mercy of the Lord, the Church believes, day after day, until the end of time, that Jesus of Nazareth died and rose again in the glory of God the Father!


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of the Church, help us to believe always in her Son Jesus!