2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A
9-12 year olds
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
The Gospel reading for this Sunday begins on Easter Sunday, the evening of the day that Jesus rises from the dead, and continues exactly one week later, on the second Sunday of the first Easter.
St. John begins the reading with,
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week
We are reminded of the first account of Creation in Genesis, the first book of the Bible:
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
I wonder if St. John writes the Gospel this way on purpose. I wonder if he wants us to think about Creation. About a new Creation.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
If this is meant to be a time of new Creation, Jesus makes it clear that it is a time for peace. Twice he says, "Peace be with you." Is this his wish? It this his command? Either way, it is clear that what he means is for there to be peace.
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
Again, we are reminded of Creation. This time, it is the second account of Creation:
then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
In this time of new Creation, what is the breath of life that Jesus breathes on the disciples? Is it ordinary life? We remember that he is risen, so we know that it is the breath of Risen Life that Jesus gives to the disciples. And he tells us that this is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Life.
But Thomas misses out on this breath of life.
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
Thomas is not there when the disciples gather. He is separated from the community and cannot believe what they tell him. We wonder if community is essential for belief, if community is necessary to support faith.
We can imagine how Thomas feels when the others tell him what they have seen. He must feel hurt, left out. If there is a new Creation, he is not part of it. He might feel angry that they would tell these stories. He might wonder if they are trying to fool him. At least, he would think, they are fooling themselves. He might feel like they are being disrespectful. We know he must be so upset that Jesus has died. And we know that grief is painful.
Does Jesus leave Thomas alone in his pain and unbelief?
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Jesus speaks to Thomas directly. Jesus shows Thomas his wounds not to shock him into believing, but to show him that he understands pain. It is something that they share. Jesus leads Thomas through the wounds of pain to faith.
Jesus is quite familiar with pain and the loneliness of separation. I think he knows exactly what we are feeling right now in our isolation. And just as he thinks of us on the cross when he is in the most pain at the moment of his death, so he thinks of us now:
Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
We have not seen him, and yet we believe. He thinks of us. We are part of the community of this new Creation, too. The breath of his Risen Life, the Holy Spirit, fills our lungs and our souls. We, too, are sent to spread his peace in our homes and in our world. We are given the strength to forgive. We build a community of faith.