Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16
Peter and the apostles perform many signs and wonders.
A song of praise to the Lord.
John describes the instruction he received to write down his vision.
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.
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.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading, from the Gospel of John, is proclaimed on the second Sunday of Easter in each of the three Sunday Lectionary cycles. This should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in this reading. This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.
Part of the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection is that he appeared to his disciples not as a spirit but in bodily form. We do not know exactly what this form was like. Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Mary of Magdala first encountered the risen Jesus, she did not recognize the figure standing before her until Jesus spoke her. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them. We know from readings such as today’s that in his resurrected body, Jesus was no longer bound by space; he appeared to the disciples in spite of the locked door. And yet, on this resurrected body, the disciples could still observe the marks of his Crucifixion.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun. As Jesus was sent by God, so too does Jesus send his disciples. This continuity with Jesus’ own mission is an essential element of the Church. Jesus grants the means to accomplish this mission when he gives his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of faith and strengthens us to bear witness to Jesus’ Resurrection.
Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness and reconciliation are gifts to us from Jesus. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share these with others. This is another essential aspect of what it means to be Christ’s Church. The Church continues Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Thomas, the disciple who doubts, represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of disciples. All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing. Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples. It is part of our human nature to seek hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to the disciples after his death is, indeed, the same Jesus who was crucified. Thomas is given the opportunity to be our representative who obtains this evidence. He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who had died. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed for we have not seen and yet have believed.
Our family life would no doubt be enhanced if we were able to transform Jesus’ greeting into a central feature in our family’s interactions. After his Resurrection, “Peace be with you” is the first thing that Jesus says to his disciples. This could be our daily family prayer for one another. In today’s Gospel, we also hear that Jesus next breathed on his disciples and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, each of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the forgiveness of sins. Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Our Baptism, then, invites us to share in the peace that Christ gave to his disciples and commissions us to share that peace of Christ by generously forgiving others as Jesus taught.
As you gather as a family, think about gifts that you might receive together such as a coloring book and crayons, a book and bookmark, or an electronic item and batteries. Observe that Jesus also paired two gifts together in today’s Gospel. Read aloud this Sunday’s Gospel, John 20:19-31. Discuss the two gifts Jesus gave to his disciples: peace and the Holy Spirit. Ask: What were the disciples to do with these gifts? (They were sent as Jesus was sent by the Father to forgive sins.) Recall that we have each received Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Observe that since we also have received these gifts from Christ, we are also sent to be people who forgive others as Jesus taught. Determine an action that your family can do to share peace and forgiveness with one another. Pray together the Prayer to the Holy Spirit or the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.
Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings