Second Sunday of Easter

PREPARING FOR THE WORD
Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.       
        O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will.


READING THE WORD 
Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina. You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or others.

Gospel                                                               John 20:19-31 Lectionary: 43 

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
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."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

For all of the readings for Sunday go to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042317.cfmâ��


REFLECTING ON THE WORD

Christ is Risen!
In our gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (or Thomas Sunday), we hear proclaimed the familiar story of the incredulity of St.Thomas, who demanded to see and touch the wounds of Jesus before he would believe the reports of the other disciples that the Lord had risen.

It’s easy to be critical of “Doubting Thomas”, as if the Lord’s resurrection from the dead is an obvious fact that compels faith. Yet we see throughout John’s gospel that many onlookers, including those closest to Jesus (such as Judas), confronted with signs such as miraculous healings and even the raising of Lazarus from the dead, not only do not come to faith but are confirmed in their rejection of Jesus.

Thomas, like us, is in the position of having to weigh, not the evidence but the credibility of those who claim to have encountered the risen Lord, Mary Magdalene (the “Apostle to the Apostles), the other holy myrrhbearing women and the other apostles and disciples, who were in hiding behind locked doors in the upper room.  It is this apostolic testimony, both proclaimed in the gospels and in their witness, unto death, after Pentecost, that is the basis of our faith in Jesus and his resurrection.

But we must not forget for a moment that this faith, while ninot contrary to reason, is grounded in grace and the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, after greeting the apostles with the words, “Peace be with you”, breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.  

Jesus appears to the apostles on the evening of that first Easter and stands in their midst, not to confirm somehow his resurrection as an intellectual proposition, but for the mission of proclaiming the Good News. Before he anoints them with the Holy Spirit he tells them, “As the Father has sent me,  so I send you.”  

After he pours out the Holy Spirit upon them, he then equips them for the mission of proclaiming the his saving death and lifegiving resurrection by saying to them:  “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and those sins you retain are retained.”

This has been understood from the beginning of the Church as Jesus conferring upon the apostles and their successors the power to loose and bind through the sacrament of Penance.  While this true, the forgiveness of sins by ordinary Christians is a crucial part of both the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus and of the resurrection.

Thomas insists on touching the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus and putting his hand in his pierced side, and Jesus invites him to do so. Jesus invites us to look upon his wounds and not to be afraid to touch them.  

It is in our willingness to forgive those who have wounded us, who have done physical, spiritual or emotional violence to ourselves and those who we love and cherish that testifies to the presence of Christ, risen from the dead, in our midst.  

I was reminded of this last week, when I watched  the widow of the doorkeeper of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt, being interviewed by Egyptian television.  Her husband had been killed stopping a suicide bomber from entering the church during the Palm Sunday celebration.
In tears she stated again and again that she forgave the man who killed her husband, that she forgave the terrorists from ISIS who persecute and kill Christians in Egypt.  She pleaded with them to repent, to give up their hatred and violence.  

The Muslim news anchor was dumbfounded at her words, saying, “These Christians are made out of steel!  See how they forgive!  They are different from us, I could not forgive like them!”  , 
Strengthened, tempered by her faith in Jesus, who has overcome sin and death, she was able to touch the wounds, even of her enemy, and through forgiveness and mercy, forgive him, and proclaim that Jesus, risen from the dead, is in our midst.
Christ is Risen!


PONDERING THE WORD

Imeditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart. You may find the following questions helpful in doing this.  
1. How or in what way did you come to faith in the Risen Lord? 
2. In what ways does the saving death and lifegiving resurrection of Jesus animate your faith?
3. Whose sins have you forgiven in your life?  Whose sins do you retain because of unforgiveness on your part? 


PRAYING THE WORD

In oratio, the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to prayer.  Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus heart-to-heart.


CLOSING PRAYER

You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer: 

God of everlasting mercy, 
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast 
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, 
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed, 
by whose Spirit they have been reborn, 
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, forever and ever.