Homily for the second Sunday of Easter - Year C - Jn. 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."


Each Sunday of the year reminds us of that first and unique Sunday when the Lord rose from the dead. Today, more than any other Sunday, the Church invites us to remember this day, blessed among all days, the day that saw Jesus of Nazareth rise to eternal life, Jesus the God-man who redeemed us from damnation with his bloody sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. Today, eight days after Easter, we continue to celebrate the victory of Christ over death, over eternal death!


God came to save what was lost: through his great love, through his immense mercy, the Lord Jesus wanted to carry out the Will of his Father and to open up to us, through his death and resurrection, the way to Heaven. Jesus suffered his Passion to save us, we who were lost because of our sins. Jesus' will was that, once on the Cross, in the sight of all, his Heart, burning with love and compassion, would be, as it were, exposed and shown to all those who want to look upon it.


Jesus was pierced through his right side by a spear. The spear went through him transversely and reached his heart. Although Jesus had already died, a little blood remained in his heart. It is this blood mixed with water that poured forth when the soldier pierced him with the spear: "One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." (Jn. 19:34) This wound - from which Jesus did not suffer, since he had already died - was one that the Lord desired to retain after his resurrection. And he made a point of showing precisely this wound to his disciples: "He showed them his hands and his side." (Jn. 20:20)


"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.' "


Jesus twice said to his disciples: "Peace be with you!" The Lord did not come to earth to punish us: it is only at the end of time that he will return to earth to judge all men, rewarding the just, and punishing the guilty. But for now, we are in the time of mercy! Now is the time of peace and reconciliation! Or, at least, it is for all those who truly desire the peace and mercy of God. For if Jesus came to reconcile all in him, he nonetheless allows us to freely receive or refuse the grace of his forgiveness. This grace is always offered to us. Moreover, the Lord gave the Apostles, on the evening of Easter, the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that, from age to age, from generation to generation, the forgiveness of God might always be available in the Church. This forgiveness is what we call the sacrament of penance, or reconciliation.


"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.' "


The anecdote concerning Saint Thomas has become banal, especially in those parts of the world which were - or still are, thanks to God - Christian. And yet, this is an absolutely magnificent image of the entire life of the Church! Thomas, who at that moment was still far from being a "saint", desires at any cost to place his hand in the side of Christ; if he does not, he will not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Even though we do not see the Lord, who is in Heaven, we nevertheless have the ability, each day, to place our hand in the transpierced side of Christ: each day, we can receive within us the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of Christ; each day, we can receive from the Lord the grace of a greater faith by communicating of the Eucharist, the sacrament par excellence, that which is symbolized by the blood and water which poured out from the transpierced side of the Lord. Like Saint Thomas, and undoubtedly more than him, we need mercy, we need to place our hand in the side of Christ in order that our faith, our hope, our love of God and neighbor might unceasingly grow in us!


"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.' "


It is eight days after Easter: it is the octave of the Resurrection. Today is Mercy Sunday. Thomas is the sign of this divine mercy, which is unequaled, immense, overflowing, unspeakable. Thomas saw the Lord and he needed to see him to believe in his resurrection. We, today, in the year 2001 of the Christian era, we have not seen the risen Jesus, and yet we believe in him! In any event, Jesus is in Heaven: we have no choice but to believe without seeing. This is clear.


How then can Thomas be the sign of the mercy of God if we are not similar to him? Quite simply, because we can see the Lord Jesus without seeing him. A paradox? Yes, but the Gospel is full of paradoxes. What enables us to see the Lord? The answer is simple: our baptism! Let us recall what took place during the baptism of Saul, he who persecuted the Christians, but who would become the Great Apostle to the Nations: Saint Paul. "Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized." (Acts 9:17-18)


Let us thank the Lord for his infinite mercy! Let us thank Him for our baptism, which allows us to see him already, thanks to the virtues that this sacrament brings us: faith, hope, and charity! Faith remains, and until the end, it will remain our everyday companion. But in the end, there will remain only love! For, in the beginning, love was already present. First the Love of God, that powerful and irresistible Love. Then our own love, that love which could only be founded on the love of God and which was the motive force and the energy which led us to baptism, that unique baptism in the death of Christ! "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."


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was always, as it were, buried and lost in the immense Love of God, help us to live each day of our life under the divine gaze, which is that of Providence, ever ready to help us and save us!



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