We must not fear, but proclaim “My Lord and my God!”
By: By Sharon Priester
Second Sunday of Easter, April 15
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
As we all know, Jesus chose men to come follow him and be disciples. These men witnessed Jesus healing the sick and teaching the people how to live their lives loving God and their neighbor, and follow the commandments that were given to Moses by God. They saw how he welcomed all people — men, women, children and even those looked down on by society, like tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and Samaritans.
The disciples celebrated the Passover with Christ during his final days on earth and at the Last Supper Jesus washed their feet, demonstrating how they were to serve others. He also took bread and the wine, blessed them and said, “Take it; this is my body” (Mark 14:22) and “This is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mark 14:24), instituting the Eucharist.
The next day, Christ was arrested and brought before Pilate to be sentenced to death, death on a cross — a horrible death that none of his disciples wished to face. When Jesus was taken down from the cross, he was placed in a borrowed tomb. Three days later, Mary Magdala went to the tomb and found it empty.
When she told Simon Peter, he and “the other disciple” ran to the tomb to find the “burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head . . . rolled up in a separate place. . . . They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then they returned home.” (John 20:7,9-10) Afraid for their own lives, the disciples hid behind locked doors.
Each of us can relate to that feeling of fear. I remember being at a track meet with our children. In the distance, I saw a funnel cloud and then heard sirens wailing. Fear quickly engulfed me. I gathered our children and drove home. Surrounded by the walls of our basement, my fears eased a bit and I felt more secure.
The disciples’ fears were dispelled as Jesus came to them and stood in their midst. He lovingly greeted them with a traditional Hebrew greeting, “Peace be with you.” As he showed them his side and hands, they rejoiced because they knew that this was their master who had died on the cross and been buried in the tomb. Jesus repeats the greeting as he commissions them, saying, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) To further prepare them for their mission, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23)
Not all the disciples were in the room at this time. Recall Judas betrayed Jesus and hung himself. The other missing disciple was Thomas. When Thomas finally returned, they told him they had seen the Lord. Thomas did not believe and said he would only believe if he could see and touch the wounds on the Lord.
A week later, Jesus came and stood before Thomas, acknowledged his lack of faith and graciously asked him to touch his wounds. With that, Thomas believed and professed his faith, proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
The disciples continued to gather and witness their belief in Christ, testify to the teachings of Christ and proclaim, “Everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.” Others, hearing them, wanted to be baptized and join them. A new community was formed, the one we hear about in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Together these believers, unified and one, shared all that they had, providing for those who were in need.
“ONE HEART AND MIND”
The second reading, written by St. John around A.D. 90 or 100, was directed to all the churches. At the time, the Gnostics claimed to have a special understanding of God, but without the commandments. John writes in this first letter to the church that a child of God is not only identified by his love of God and others, but also by his belief that Jesus is the begotten Son of God who overcame the world.
During this Easter season and throughout the rest of the year, let us keep praying the Responsorial Psalm, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love is everlasting.” Let us stop putting up the walls of fear and listen to God calling us to be his disciples. Let us not be like Thomas but believe in Christ even if we have not seen.
Like the early church communities, let us be of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32), sharing the word of God and all that we have with others, conquering evil.
SHARON PRIESTER is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.