Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - April 11, 2021
On the Second Sunday of Easter, the prayers and scriptures of the Church continue to testify to the faith of the earliest disciples and their witness to the resurrected Jesus. We hear how the Risen Christ continued to be present through his Spirit and empowered the disciples to live out the mission and continue ministry that he had begun. We get a realistic sense of the disciples’ successes and struggles, as well as their joys, fears, and doubts. Since this day also bears the title of Sunday of Divine Mercy, we are called to hear and to trust in the Lord’s offer of peace, mercy, and forgiveness - and become ministers of Divine Mercy for others.
Christ’s peace is not simply a good feeling, and it is not simply the absence of conflict or hostility. Christ’s peace is active and transforming - a peace that re-creates, renews, and energizes. It is a peace saturated with the love and mercy of God, who will never give up on us. It is a gift that demands focused and determined action and sends the disciples forth to continue Jesus’ work and to share his peace with others.
The evangelist John clearly has the creation story in mind when he describes Jesus as “ breathing” the Holy Spirit on his disciples. Just as God created man and woman by breathing life into them (Genesis 2), the Risen Christ re-creates humankind by breathing the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.
The power to forgive sins: Jesus’ breathing his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples transformed them into a new creation, the Church. Jesus’ gift of peace and his entrusting to his disciples the work of forgiveness defines the very identity of the church, the parish, or any community of faith, in a way that enables the members of the community to accept one another, to affirm one another, and to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ. We get a glimpse of how that works in today’s First Reading from the Acts of Apostles, where “the community of believers was of one heart and mind … [as they] bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
Christ’s gift of peace makes disciples instruments of the peace and mercy that God wills to share with all. Christ’s peace even reaches to those who, like Thomas, struggle to keep faith in the midst of crisis and doubt. The same unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, works of charity, and commitment to reconciliation and forgiveness that brought the first Christians together as a community is what powerfully binds us to one another as the Church today.
The Risen Christ’s gift of peace, alongside his sending disciples out with the Spirit-empowered mission to forgive sins, provides the foundation for the Church’s celebration of Divine Mercy.
John’s Gospel assures us that what we read and hear proclaimed is given to us that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ and that believing we may live in his name. We may not be able to see or touch Christ’s wounds, but we certainly recall, cherish, and reflect on the way they remind us of his love for us. Risen from the dead, he now calls us to share his life and his Spirit. He even blesses us as we hear in his last words to Thomas in today’s Gospel: “Blessed are those (that is, all of us) who have not seen and have believed.”
Today, our loving and merciful Lord calls us forth from the locked rooms where we might hide in fear, failure, or doubt. Today, we once again receive his forgiveness and mercy. Today, we once again hear his Easter wish for us all: “Peace be with you.”