Year B 2nd Sunday Easter: John 20,19-31

20:19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week,
the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.
Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you,'

20:20 and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord,

20:21 and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. '
As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.'

20:22 After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven;
if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained.

20:24 Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord,' but he answered,
'Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands
and can put my finger into the holes they made,
and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.'

20:26 Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them.
The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them.
'Peace be with you,' he said.

20:27 Then he spoke to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.
Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.'

20:28 Thomas replied, 'My Lord and my God!'

20:29 Jesus said to him: You believe because you can see me.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

20:30 There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples,
but they are not recorded in this book.

20:31 These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that believing this you may have life through his name.

Mary Magdalene had discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Peter and John had had a look and made the same observation and had returned home. Then the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Now we hear that he appears to his disciples although they had hidden themselves behind closed doors. For fear, John says. I think for shame as well.

‘Peace be with you. Shalom.’ This greeting of Jesus is almost unbelievable. Shouldn’t he have said, ‘You, pack of losers, where were you when I needed you most? You who said that you would give your life for me? The three best years of my life I have spent with you and look at the result...’ Something like that? Nothing of that. On the contrary. ‘Peace!’ And it is no mistake: he repeats it. And then, to crown it all he sends them, to do the same things he did before. He sends them, the losers of the age. He entrusts his spirit to them. Unbelievable.

That is exactly what Thomas says when he hears about it. ‘Did he say “Peace”? And he gave you a mission? That is what you are dreaming about. We would wish that it is like that. But didn’t he talk about his horrible sufferings? Was it really him? Did you see the pain spots and the scars of his passion, the signs of the pain as a result of our failures as well? No, if it is true what you are saying - but it isn’t of course... But if so, then we are confronted with the mystery of the Holy One - blessed be his name; the One of whom our Holy Books are telling. So much forgiveness: that is impossible. I can only believe what you are telling me, if I may touch the spots of pain we caused him, and that I hear him saying at that very moment, ‘Peace be with you.’ But alas, our world is not like that.

Our world isn’t, but our God: He is. So Jesus appeared again. And now Thomas was there as well. He invited Thomas, ‘See my pain spots; feel the reality of the cicatrices... Peace be with you.’
Thomas is the first one who recognizes the size of the mystery he is confronted with, ‘My Lord and my God.’

These words remind us of the very first lines of John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God...’

Picture Meditation

At Montmartre, Paris, I pictured the sculpture of a man stepping through the wall. It reminded me of Jesus who appeared to his apostles in spite of the closed doors...

The picture of the stained-glass window is taken in the St Patrick’s Cathedral of Dublin, Ireland. It is an illustration to Jesus’ words when he appears to his disciples, ‘Peace be unto you!’ He is towering above his disciples. They are all looking up at him. In amazement. But Jesus spreads his hands over their heads and blesses them with his peace. In the background he is surrounded by two columns. And there is a curtain. As if the artist tells me that here Jesus’ words come true: ‘Destroy this temple building, and in three days I will raise it up' (John 02,19).

But the real temple building is to be found just around him. The congregation of disciples. He makes them his temple by entrusting them with his spirit and by sending them to bring the Good Message of divine life stronger than evil and death: the Good Message of forgiveness, love and peace. That new life is symbolized in the framing by the bunches of grapes, symbols of God’s fertility, and by the oak leaves, symbols of strength.

I count eleven disciples! Thomas is among them. So, this must be the moment just before he will invite Thomas to come nearer and to touch his pain spots...

Can I imagine myself among the disciples, no matter if I am a man or a woman? (Remember that the first one whom was ordered to announce to his disciples that Jesus was alive, was Mary Magdalene). Can I feel the overwhelming effect of his grace and forgiveness? What would I think or feel at that moment? Is there something I would like to say to Jesus? Or to ask him?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ