April 24, 2022 Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Welcome Father Martin Today’s Readings: Acts 5:12-16 | Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 | Jn 20:19-31

These days we celebrate Easter - the resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection is the greatest miracle we Christians know. […] This is precisely the way God has always done and continues to do miracles: not by intervening from above, but by transforming from within the one who needs the miracle and his help. […]

Locked doors - that is the mark of the disciples after Good Friday. […] Jesus enters into this closedness of fear, says the Gospel. No doors are opened and closed. It happens in a different way than tangible and visible things tend to happen - an entry into the interior, into the soul. There Jesus says to the disciples: “Peace be with you. - Peace is the opposite of fear. And he shows them his hands and his side, his wounds. Peace, not being afraid and the wounds belong together. Or in other words: Jesus means to them: You do not have to be afraid because of my death. Nor does he refute my trust in God. For if he - God - is really the one I believed him to be on earth, the one you were sure I knew like no other, then this God remains close and faithful even and especially when I come to the human end, even when I am destroyed.

[…] At the same time, this confirmation gives them a mission: As the Father has sent me, so I send you. What Jesus was for them, the disciples, they are now to be for each other and for the people: Witnesses of the faithfulness and reliability that cannot be refuted, simply of God’s love. […]

But there is something else, better: another one: Thomas. Thomas does not experience the first coming of the Risen One to his disciples, does not share in their discovery. He doubts what they tell him about it. That is why he sets standards for Easter: If I do not see the stigmata on his hands; if I cannot touch the wounds and put my hand in his side, I do not believe. - When the Risen Lord makes himself known again, Thomas is there. He is asked to give his proof now. But Thomas does not do what he himself had asked. Instead he confesses: My Lord and my God! And then Jesus speaks one of the critical sentences of the whole Gospel: “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”

What Jesus is saying is clear: Thomas, you could have believed in my resurrection even without my appearance. And that would also have been the more appropriate way, the way that makes those who follow it blessed. This word of the Lord to Thomas brings us before an exciting question, namely the question: If the appearance of the Risen One is not at all necessary for this, basically not at all appropriate, then what would have been enough for Thomas to believe in Easter? This question is so exciting because it corresponds exactly to our own situation. For even our Easter faith cannot be based on apparitions, on the overwhelming experiences of the first hour. So what, according to the testimony of the Gospel, could have justified Thomas’ Easter faith?

It is actually very simple: what Thomas knew about Jesus and had experienced with him. In plain language: Whoever lives as Jesus lived; whoever does and says what he did and said; whoever finally dies as he died - of him one may be convinced that he, with all that belonged to his life, will not be lost, but will be and remain forever saved in God’s hand. His life and death is the actual credible sign of the resurrection. […]

Nevertheless, Easter is not simply an inner, spiritual event. Rather, it has a tangible outside, a humanly perceptible echo, so to speak, as our Gospel tells us when, right at the end of the first encounter with the Risen One, it suddenly speaks of forgiveness of sins. Forgiving sins is the mission of the Easter people. The Risen One entrusts to them his own mission, which he received from the Father, so that they in turn should continue it: reconciliation between God and man.

What he worked through his actions and suffering - through living and dying - is transmitted to the disciples. By reconciling people with God again, they do what he did. Where they do, creation is renewed; where they do not, the old remains. Therein lies the weight of Easter for us Christians. Resurrection, rising up and coming out of the entanglements of fear does not happen as an open-air performance of a heavenly drama, but it happens to Christians themselves, to us.

Thus they experience that what he stood for with life and limb is not impossible and not in vain. If something is not in vain, it remains valid and endures. When people turn to God again in response to the Jesus stories of the disciples, of the Christians, the Crucified One continues to do what he did when he was alive. And that means: He lives. Forgiving sins makes Easter real. Where people do not set off evil against each other, but grant each other a new beginning, that is where Easter begins, that is where they bear witness to the crucified Risen One, whether they know it or not. Easter, although an event in the innermost, is not a mere idea, but a reality that goes to the extreme - for what could be more extreme than that evil is disempowered in the power of forgiveness! This is entrusted to the disciples - to us today. We will experience it and pass it on if we adhere to what the Risen Lord advises the critical Thomas.

Source of reflection: Father Martin Müller SJ (April 2022). Source of image: LeCompte, Rowan and Irene LeCompte. Christ shows himself to Thomas, https://www.flickr.com/photos/maryannsolari/5119341372/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) [04/24/2022].