Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 3 April 2016 (Second Sunday of Easter / Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31 (find the readings here)
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, and on this Second Sunday in Easter, which is also Mercy Sunday, I’ll use the lens of mercy – that amazing loving faithfulness and compassion of God for us in Christ Jesus – to interpret today’s readings.
The disciples were crowded into a shadowy room behind locked doors, cowering and afraid that those who had put Jesus to death might come for them too. Some of them had seen the empty tomb and they had listened to Mary Magdalene’s incredible account of how she had seen the Lord. In subdued tones they were arguing and wondering, trying to make sense of it all. Dare they hope? But even if Jesus were alive, so many of them had deserted him in those final hours. If there were a continuation of the story, and that was still unclear, then surely they would have no part in it. Into the middle of this despondency and confusion, with the door firmly shut against hope, Jesus steps in and greets them: “Shalom!” He offers them peace and brings them joy. He doesn’t tell them that they have failed or that he will need to find a different team to spread the good news. No, he sends them forth with the very mission the Father entrusted to him: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In gifting them with the Spirit, the very breath that has animated his own life and ministry, he gives them all that they need for the journey ahead, a journey in which they will bestow on others the radical forgiveness that they have themselves received. Even Thomas, the disciple who was not there, who couldn’t believe, is not written off. The risen Jesus comes again, with the same gift of peace, especially for him.
Nor had God closed the door on Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was condemned and crucified. In the face of such a harsh “no” to the divine invitation, God does not turn away, but is present to heal and to save through the community of Jesus’ followers, the fledgling Church.
John the Seer saw a vision of the Risen Christ standing in the midst of seven lampstands, symbols of the Christian communities to whom John will write. This image is a beautiful reminder that Jesus is still present in the Church. As the One who has passed through death to life, he comes to speak hope to those who are distressed and enduring suffering. John’s experience of Jesus is to be passed on to others through what he writes down, through the Scriptures.
The writer of the Fourth Gospel, whom tradition if not biblical scholarship equates with the John of Revelation, also writes with the aim of encouraging faith. Those of us who read or hear his Gospel are those who ‘have not seen’, at least not in the sense that the apostolic followers of Jesus did. But we are invited to experience Jesus alive and present in our midst as we hear the story told. The joy of Easter is not just back then, it is also now. Jesus is still slipping past locked doors to speak God’s peace to us, finding us where we are hiding in fear or exiled in despondency, forgiving, restoring and equipping us to take God’s love to the world.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever!”