“On the evening of that first day of the week,” we continue to hear on the Second Sunday of Easter of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. There is so much for us to absorb that one Sunday or even one week is not enough for us to experience the fullness of the Resurrection.

The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord over an eight-day period. We call these eight days, the Octave of Easter, from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter. And what we hear in the Gospel each day, is what occurred on that first day of the week. And today is no different, today’s Gospel from John 20:19-31, opens: “On the evening of that first day of the week,” and it is worth reflecting on the awesomeness of all that the apostles and disciples had to comprehend on that first day of the week.

They are hiding in the upper room out of fear with the doors locked. The events of the previous three days affected the disciples, their leader was crucified, and they followed their instincts and their instincts told them to hide. In hiding they were trying to make sense of what the empty tomb meant. They did not comprehend yet the meaning of the empty tomb, “for they did not understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9) They all thought Jesus’ body was stolen. They were filled with fear and they went back to hide in the upper room.

Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room and offers them the opposite of fear, he offers them peace. Not once, but three times Jesus offers the disciples in the upper room peace. Jesus offering peace three times is today’s Gospel, replacing the three denials Peter gave when asked if he knew Jesus. Jesus’ response was not to deny them, but to offer them new life. 

How was peace understood in Jesus’ time? The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. To offer Shalom or peace is meant to offer people the completeness or fullness of life. Jesus offers peace to the disciples who are filled with fear. He is offering them the fullness of life that only Jesus Christ can provide through his suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus said the second time, “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.” 

The Holy Spirit would replace their fear with courage. Thomas was not with them when Jesus appeared the night of the first day of the week. When told of this Resurrection appearance, Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) A week later Jesus appeared again in the upper room and for the third time he said, “Peace be with you.” He does not scold Thomas because he doubts; by his offering peace he offers mercy by allowing Thomas to touch his hands and side. He provides Thomas the fullness of life and Thomas gives his Christological proclamation, “My Lord and my God.” Thus, Thomas has received the fullness of life which can only come through the peace of Christ.  

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:12-16) reveals how the Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed on disciples filled them with courage. The fear that paralyzed them now was replaced with acts of faith and courage, “bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” The Peace that Jesus breathed on them was a sending forth, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) The disciples were sent to provide the fullness of life which can only come from Jesus Christ. The courage the apostles exhibit in the first reading reflects how they themselves will not be able to be self-contained, just as locked doors could not stop Jesus, not even prison cells will be able to stop the proclaiming of the Good News. 

Psalm 118 tells us in the first verse that “his mercy endures forever.” The enduring mercy of Christ is seen in the healing acts of the apostles. These acts provide new life for those who were dead, “Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.” (Revelations 1:17-19) This is the message of peace that Jesus sends the disciples to announce, a message of the fullness of life.