The Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Easter has two parts. It begins on the first 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).
We wonder if St. John writes the Gospel this way on purpose. Perhaps 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 God means this 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." Does he wish peace be with them? Does he command it? Either way, we know he means 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, this may remind us of Creation. In the second account of Creation, we hear:
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 breath of life does Jesus breathe on the disciples? Ordinary life? We remember that he is Risen, so we know that Jesus breathes the breath of Risen Life.
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.’
The gathering of the disciples takes place without Thomas. Separated from the others, from the community, he cannot believe what they tell him. We wonder if belief needs community. Perhaps faith requires the support of others who believe.
We can imagine how Thomas feels when the others tell him what they have seen. He must feel hurt, left out. If God wills a new Creation, Thomas does not feel part of it. He did not receive an invitation.
He might feel angry that the others would tell these stories. He might wonder if they want to fool him. At the very least, he would think they fool themselves. This story they tell disrespects the memory of Jesus whom he loved.
We know Thomas grieves for Jesus who died. Pain fills him.
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. This is something Jesus and Thomas share. Jesus leads Thomas through the wounds of pain to faith.
Jesus knows both pain and the loneliness of separation. If life did not teach these to him, the cross sure did. Jesus knows exactly how we feel in our grief, in our loneliness, in our pain—and he joins us in it.
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. Jesus thinks of us. Hearing these words, we know Immanuel—God-with-us. Just like Thomas, we belong to the community of this new Creation, too. The breath of his Risen Life, the Holy Spirit, fills our lungs and our souls. Jesus sends us, too, to spread his peace in our homes and in our world. He gives us the strength to forgive. We build a community of faith.
"Let us go now, in-spirit-ed, into this world with kindness."