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home : opinion : word of faith

4/20/2017 9:00:00 AM
WORD OF FAITH
Meeting Jesus in community
BY REV. ANTHONY BARRATT


FROM A READING FOR APRIL 23, SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
'Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate..., praising God....And day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved...' -- Acts 2:46-47


On the second Sunday of the Easter season (Divine Mercy Sunday), our readings include the Gospel about Jesus' encounter with "doubting Thomas."

St. Thomas does have doubts and questions ("Unless I see...unless I touch"), but this is not the same as putting God to the test. He doubts not Jesus, but the witness of the disciples -- an important difference!

Our readings lead us to focus not so much on Thomas and his doubts, but on two realities: coming to a deep faith and belief in the risen Christ, and the role of the Christian community in our journey of faith and in our call to be witnesses of God's love and mercy.

In the section before our first reading (Acts 2:42-47), St. Peter, on Pentecost, has preached about the risen Christ. Now, in our reading, we are given a picture of the early Church as a witness to and a fruit of belief in that resurrection. It is characterized above all by "communion" -- both of material goods and of prayer and the breaking of bread.

Our second reading (1 Pt 1:3-9) begins with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, echoing many Jewish prayer elements; then has words of encouragement to live the faith in the resurrection, even in times of trial. We use our Easter psalm of joy and thanksgiving (Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24), with its image of Jesus as the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone.

Jesus arrives
The Gospel (John 20:19-31) is packed with many fundamental Easter elements and images. Jesus appears to the disciples and immediately says, "Peace be with you." He does not say, "Hello; it is I, Jesus;" or, "Yes, I have risen." His first Easter word is, "Peace." This is such an Easter gift -- especially for the disciples, who are frightened, weak and hardly at peace.

Then Jesus gives them the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, and their transformation is complete. No longer weak and frightened, they will become bold witnesses to the risen Lord, strengthened with that inner tranquility of spirit. May we be the same!

Jesus shows them His wounds -- perhaps to show that He is not a ghost or a mirage, but the risen and glorious Jesus, who bears the wounds He bore for us in His risen body. This reminds us of our faith in the resurrection of the body (not just of the spirit), which we profess in the Apostles' Creed.

Only now do we meet Thomas, and our two themes of faith/belief and community come together. Thomas has been alone, apart from the community of the other Apostles. Such isolation is not good. We can imagine him isolated and afraid, angry or at least bewildered.

Doubting Thomas
Thomas was away from the community, and the risen Jesus did not appear to him. As he joins the Apostles, he hears their amazing claim of encountering the risen Lord. Perhaps he detects a change in them, but he won't go along with their unbelievable story that "we have seen the Lord." He doubts them.

Jesus enters and repeats the Easter greeting of peace, then repeats Thomas' challenge to the disciples. Jesus does not invite Thomas to touch his wounds, but uses the imperative: "Use your fingers for the smaller wounds of the nails, but your whole hand for the larger wound in my side."

We don't know whether Thomas actually touched the wounds. We do know Jesus touched Thomas' wounded heart. Thomas makes a great profession of faith: "My Lord and my God." This is divine mercy at work. Thomas went on to be a great missionary of the Church, as far away as India.

May we not be isolated Christians. Being a true disciple can be tough at times. May we allow the Lord to touch our sometimes wounded heart and help us in our struggles with faith. May He give us His gift of peace. In Jesus we trust!





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