2nd. Sunday Of Easter-Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen.”
These words of the Risen Lord are addressed to his disciples of all times. Blessed are those, who hearing the Word of the Gospel, recognize immediately the voice of their Shepherd and repeat Thomas’ profession of faith. “My Lord and my God!” The best place to listen to this voice and meet the Risen Lord is at the Sunday gathering of the community.
This is the theme of the Gospel, which links up with the Second Reading, particularly the last phrase.
If we cannot see the Risen Lord, there is however something else we can see: the community, which through its life is evidence that Christ is alive (First Reading).
Christ’s Resurrection was the most dramatic and life-changing event ever. Its profound implications dawned upon Christians only by degrees. Some of these implications emerge in the readings for this Second Sunday of the Easter season.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Luke pictures the deep community spirit that flowed from the Easter event of that time. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of Bread and the prayers.” Life was pretty incredible, a life in common with each other, nobody holding or seeking an economic advantage over a neighbour; no one in need because everyone was charitable and generous. This was a community united in praise of God and obedient to the teachings of Jesus.
The presence of the Risen Christ in their midst created a deep bond that was forming among his followers. They drew closer to one another as they accepted and practiced the truths handed down to them by the apostles. They gladly shared their food as well as their goods when the need arose. It was said that nothing has ever been as good as the early Christian experience. In fact, Scripture scholars tend to suggest that it was too good to be true, and that Luke was idealizing more than a little than what the original Church was actually like.
Faith in the Risen Lord demands that we consider material goods as a means to sustain our human life. The life of a Christian can never have as one of its goals, the accumulation of goods. Anything we own, which is not indispensable, must be generously shared with our brothers and sisters in need, so that they too may lead decent lives. A famous bishop of the early Church, Basil, told his faithful: “If everybody took for himself only what he needs leaving the rest for his destitute brothers and sisters, there would be neither rich nor poor.” If one of our brothers or sisters is still in need, then even what is very useful to us is ‘superfluous’. For instance, can a Christian spend money on luxuries and non-essentials while the children of a neighbour can’t even afford the textbooks and exercise books needed at school?
In the early centuries of the history of the Church, the Christians attending the Eucharistic celebration held an authentic “offertory”; they brought to the priest bread, wine, oil, flour, and money which they has saved during the week. These gifts were later shared out among the poor, the widows and the orphans of the community. If our communities do not share their goods, are they real witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ? What other proof of their faith and love to their neighbour can they produce? What gifts do we bring to share with the poor and needy?
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24.
The pilgrim Psalm of last Sunday is continued. All are invited to join in the praise of God. Let Israel say, ‘God’s love is forever’.’ Then, however, we discover the reason for praise: ‘you pressed me hard, so as to fall’, he says, presumably to his enemies, ‘and YHWH helped me’, with the result that ‘a joyful sound of victory is in the tents of the righteous: YHWH’s right hand has exercised power’. Then comes the reminder that the singer has actually been rescued: ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ (a phrase applied to Jesus in his life-time, of course), before the song finally returns to God: ‘this came from YHWH, a marvel in our eyes – the day YHWH made; we rejoice and exult in it’. God has given victory to the One who was falling, to Christ who was buried in the tomb.
1 Peter 1:3-9.
In the second reading Peter writes to the new Christian communities springing up everywhere encouraging them to live out their newfound faith. He promises “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”. The faithful will however have “to suffer various trials”, Peter says, but their joy will not diminish, for it is “more precious than gold”. Moreover, it will result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Thus it was that the first Christians came to understand that the Resurrection did not do away with the crosses and trials of life. It did, however shed a new ‘Light’ on them. Through the account of eyewitnesses and the impact of the ‘Good News’ on their lives; the ‘birth unto hope’ is for them as well.
In the Gospel, John tells how Jesus appeared to the apostles on the first Easter Sunday saying to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…. Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Risen Jesus makes it clear that because of his Resurrection, his followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were now to go out to the world bearing the ‘Good News’.
Thomas, one of the twelve, wasn’t present at Jesus’ appearance to the others. On hearing of it he doubted that it happened. Most early Christians had not seen the Risen Christ. They were in much the same position as we are. So John uses the story of Thomas to assure them and us that Jesus indeed is truly ‘Risen’. Jesus says to them, and to us today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
It is difficult for people like Thomas to act on faith. That is why it is so important that Jesus came back, not just for Thomas’ sake but for our sakes also. Some of us who have the gift of faith and find it easy to believe can readily be dismissed as religious fanatics. Some say that we will believe in anything: miracles, resurrections etc. People like Thomas do not profess faith unless brought to their knees by the reality of it. In his mind, Thomas represents all disciples who find it difficult to believe in the ‘Resurrection of Christ’. It is important to keep in mind that even the apostles did not find it easy to believe in the Resurrection; and this, in spite of the repeated appearances of the ‘Risen Lord’.
John wants to instruct the Christians of his communities who wanted to see first before believing. He tells them about Thomas and explains that the ‘Risen Lord’ lives a life that escapes our senses, a life that cannot be touched or seen. It can only be experienced by faith. Faith can never be founded on what one sees or on any scientific proof. If someone insists on seeing, verifying and touching, he or she cannot say that they have faith.
We say, “Blessed are those who saw”, don’t we? Jesus says “the blessed ones are those who have not seen”. Why? Maybe we think that it is harder for them to believe and therefore their faith is more meritorious. It is not exactly so: they are blessed because their faith is more genuine, purer. One who sees has been given the irrefutable proof of a fact; but this is not faith. John describes how to arrive at this faith in the last part of today’s Gospel: “There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that in believing in this, you may have ‘Life’ through his Name”.
Here then is the proof: the Gospel. That’s where we have the word of Christ, that’s where the person of Christ is revealed and we are invited to follow him. There is no other proof besides this Word. To understand this better let us remember the Parable of the Good Shepherd: “My sheep know my voice” (Jn.10: 4, 14, 27). No seeing is required! The voice of the Shepherd rings out throughout the Gospel, and the sound of his voice is recognized by his sheep.
The four written Gospels are less convincing that the ‘fifth’ … the ‘Gospel of Christian Witness’. How far are we from the witness of the community in Acts? Would the proper understanding of our Liturgy convince the unbeliever? Would our fidelity to the teachings of Christ and the apostles help us? Would our neighbourliness and generosity open hearts to the Truth? Will our general prayerfulness bring us and others the answers we seek? Negative images can also supply the obstacles and barriers, which prevent us from recognizing the presence and the power of the Lord in our lives. Consider these negative images, obstacles and barriers:
Closed Doors – bereavement, suffering, failure, abuse, scandals and personal guilt etc.
Fear – from lack of trust, reliance on self rather than on God, excessive anxiety.
Refusal to believe – is it pride excessive independence, oddness, opting out, being unwilling to let go of the past?
Many people have come to know the Lord once they faced their own hurts and failures. Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds. God is willing to accommodate us all according to our needs. If we respond to it, it can change our lives as radically as it did the lives of the first Christians.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
2nd Sunday of Easter Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … A deep community spirit existed in the early Church during the Easter event. Early Christians were deeply devoted to the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of the Bread and prayer. Are we today a community united in the praise of God and obedient to the teachings of Christ or a community divided by self-indulgence and independence of God?
Mon. … Faith in the Risen Lord demands that we consider material goods as a means to sustain human life. This is not only for our own lives but also more importantly for the lives of those who are in need. The life of a Christian can never hold as one of its goals ‘the accumulation of goods’. Do we share generously with our brothers and sisters in need?
Tue. … By our Christian charity can we be seen as real witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ? What other proof of the’ true faith’ can we give to those who need to believe?
Wed. … The pilgrim Psalm of last Sunday is continued. All are invited to join in the praise of God. God has given victory to the One who was falling, to Christ our Lord, who was buried in the tomb. Have we risen to ‘new life’ in Christ?
Thur. … Peter knows he is writing to people who have heard of these many wonderful experiences over time and distance, catching a glimmer of the reality of this ‘Good News’ through the accounts of eyewitnesses and the impact and the effects it had on their lives. This ‘birth unto hope’ can best be expressed by the way we live our lives in the faith, walking in the ‘Way of the Lord’.
Frid. … It was Sunday night, three of them had already seen the vacant tomb, and Mary came back with stories of having seen the Rabboni (Master) himself. Suddenly Jesus was present, past the locked doors and all their fear. He offered them Peace and, with a breath, the Holy Spirit. He was hardly present before he was removed from their sight. The Risen Lord during this holy Easter season is with us in his Mystical Body, in the Eucharist and in the Word and in his Spirit. We need never fear that he will disappear from our presence. He is with us until the end of time!
Sat. … It is difficult for people like Thomas to act on faith; which is why it was so important that Jesus came back, not just for Thomas’ sake but for our sakes as well. For many of us who have had doubts, Jesus continues to return to us in the spirit of love and compassion in persons known and unknown. He continues to minister to the wounds of our sins through his divine forgiveness and mercy, which he gave to the Church. Jesus today invites us to touch his wounds and to believe.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we thank You for Your gift of our Risen Lord and the wonderful resources for reflection in Your liturgy on what true human life is all about. Help us to respond to your teachings so that it may change our lives as radically as it did the first Christians. We pray that we may help those who doubt to touch the ‘wounds’ of our Risen Lord.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.