Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Divine Mercy, April 8)

“My Lord and my God!,” Thomas acclaims on seeing the risen Lord. The profession of faith is the most direct and perhaps the greatest in the fourth Gospel. However, Thomas’ statement comes only after a period of struggle and doubt.

The Gospel passage for Sunday’s liturgy recalls two appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples. The first one finds the disciples locked in a room. They are full of fear. Jesus appears to them and shows them his hands and side. He is risen from the dead. He is not a ghost but clearly has a body.

Thomas is not present at this gathering. When the disciples report to Thomas what has happened, he says: “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.” Thomas’ words are strong. He is steeped in grief, fear and doubt.

A week later Jesus appears again, and this time Thomas is present. As in the first appearance Jesus greets the disciples with the words “Peace be with you.” He immediately goes to Thomas and shows him his hands and side saying: “Do not be unbelieving but believe.” It is now that Thomas makes his proclamation of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus calls us to faith. He did so all during the public ministry. The Gospel according to John highlights the “signs” Jesus performed as an invitation to faith. Those “signs” or miracles were meant to inspire faith. The “signs” included changing water into wine in Cana, the multiplication of loaves and fishes, the healing of the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus.

Yet the greatest “sign” was Jesus’ own death on the cross. He lays down his life completely in death only to take it up again three days later. The “signs” invite people to believe in Jesus as the one who “was in the beginning with God;” the one “through whom all things came to be;” the “word become flesh;” and the one sent from the Father. All who Jesus is, is captured in that short affirmation of faith by Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus is the light who dispels the darkness, the “way, the truth and the life,” because he is the Lord of life. His victory over death reconciles mankind with God. The one who is the author of life has the power to heal that division caused by sin.

He also has the ability to heal anything that is broken or in need of healing. Hence when he greets his disciples in the two appearances from Sunday’s Gospel, his greeting is “Peace be with you.” Because he is the Lord of life he can offer and establish peace. Accepting that offer requires faith.

On Easter Sunday, in Masses during the day, the Gospel passage proclaimed was also from The Gospel According to John. The passage recalls the early morning of the “first day of the week,” when Mary of Magdala finds that Jesus’ tomb is empty. She goes and tells Peter and the beloved disciple. They run back to the empty tomb. Going in they see the burial cloths and the cloth that covered Jesus’ head rolled up. The evangelist tell us that when the beloved disciple went into the tomb, “he saw and believed.”

In this Sunday’s passage, after Thomas’ profession of faith, Jesus says: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Jesus, risen from the dead, invites us to believe. He calls us to recognize in him the source of life and the font of peace. Life in this world while beautiful and wonderful can be trying at times. We have to face challenges that bring darkness and doubt. We recognize this in our prayer. When we pray the Our Father, we pray for forgiveness for our sins and those who sin against us.

At Mass, after saying that same prayer, the priest prays that we might be delivered from every evil, kept safe from sin and protected against all anxiety. Jesus is the one who brings peace into the world and into our lives. Faith opens the door to that font of peace. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.