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Second Sunday Of Easter/ Sunday Of Divine Mercy: April 11, 2023

Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of John 20:19–31. In this passage, we read about Jesus appearing to the disciples in the locked room on the first day of the week, breathing on them with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and sending them out to be ministers of forgiveness, peace, and joy for others. The passage ends with the Gospel writer’s interesting statement about Jesus doing and saying many other things that are not contained in his writing. For additional insights into this Gospel account that are not discussed in this reflection, please refer to the volumes of Come Follow Me for Liturgical Year B or Liturgical Year C.

The first thing to notice in this passage is that all these events occurred on the first day of the week. That day is Sunday. It is no accident that so many experiences of God’s presence, peace, reconciliation, and mission are all experienced on the Lord’s Day. John is trying to tell us what should be happening when we celebrate the Lord’s Day as well. The Lord’s Day offers us opportunities to give God the gift of time by coming to Mass and praying. In the words of St. John Paul II, “It is the day that shapes the rhythm of life for Christ’s disciples.”[1] It also offers us the opportunity to spend quality time with our family and friends, thus strengthening the bonds of community. God wants that! Family time should never be a burden but always a blessing since our primary vocation is to our family. Finally, the Lord’s Day invites us to dedicate time to the mission of the Gospel and better equip ourselves as disciples who are being sent to bring God’s mercy to others. Thus, works of charity, consideration of the less fortunate, and faith enrichment are other ways in which the Lord’s Day is honored and sanctified.
What does your Lord’s Day look like? How do you try to sanctify the Lord’s Day so it can be a day of encounter, mission, and discipleship?
What gets in the way of your ability to experience the Lord’s Day as it is intended?
What can you do to better sanctify the Lord’s Day for you and your family?
Why is it important for a disciple to honor the Lord’s Day?
In our society, the Lord’s Day is oftentimes seen as a day for recreation; God intends it to be a day of “Re-Creation” as His sons and daughters. How do you experience spiritual re-creation in your life?
What can we do as a faith community to help people enter more deeply into the celebration of the Mass so as to experience God’s presence, peace, reconciliation, and mission?
Many times people think that the Scriptures represent humanity’s search for God. In reality, the Scriptures tell us the story of God’s search for humanity. In the book of Genesis, we read about Adam who sinned and was hiding from God. God came into the Garden searching for Adam who was hiding because he was ashamed. God’s search for man continued through the writings of the Prophets in the Old Testament. Even the Exodus was an expression of the Lord’s attempt to bring His people close to Him. In this Gospel passage, we see Jesus searching for the disciples while they are in hiding. Indeed, God is still searching for us while we try to hide in places of false security. Jesus first searches for the disciples who have locked themselves in the room out of fear. He goes to bring them peace and courage. Second, He goes to Thomas who has locked himself in a defiant stance of faith that demands empirical proof and wants to be convinced before he will believe. In each of these scenes Jesus is searching for His lost disciples. Even prior to this passage in John 20:11–18 we read of our Lord’s search for Mary Magdalene who was in sorrow and distress because she could not find her Lord. All of these scenes show us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes in search after His sheep. Sometimes we have a choice in whether or not we allow ourselves to be found by the Lord. Sometimes we can actually be more content to be alone in our fear and sorrow than to be united once again with God. Sin especially leads us to believe that we are not worthy of the Lord’s forgiveness and love. This passage gives us hope and assurance that the Lord wants nothing more than our reconciliation and joy.
When have you not wanted to be “found” by God?
What causes people to hide from God today?
How does God try to knock on the door of our hearts so as to break into our lives?
How can you make yourself more open and ready to be found by the Lord?
What are the techniques we use to “hide” from the Lord — that is, what are the ways in which we try to lock God out of our lives?
What is it that people fear about God today?
Lastly, the Gospel writer tells us that Jesus said and did many other things that are not recorded in the Gospel. This is an interesting statement. Basically, it acknowledges that the Gospels do not contain everything that Jesus revealed. This passage of Scripture raises the question as to where we find the other things Jesus said and did that are not recorded in the Gospel. The answer to this question involves the role of Tradition, which includes the faithful passing on of other important things Jesus said and did. All of these actions and teachings of our Lord form the deposit of divine revelation, and many of them are not recorded in the Gospels (as stated in the explicit comment of Jn 20:30). In today’s world, there are many people wanting to fill in the blanks of what Jesus said and did, but not everything is faithful to the Christian Tradition. Everything from the History Channel on television to pop culture is trying to interpret for us the Spirit of Jesus while oftentimes introducing unfounded and questionable elements into their teachings. Typically, these sources present someone who is labeled as an “expert” in one way or another. It is important to remember that virtually anyone can be interviewed and labeled an “expert”, thus causing confusion in the minds of many people. This raises the question, how are we to know what is true and what is not true when it comes to resolving questions of faith that go beyond what is contained in Sacred Scripture?
What are your criterion for discerning what is truly revealed faith?
When has someone told you something about Jesus that you have not believed and what was it?
What was your process for discernment?
The ability to discern the truth is an important quality for disciples. What resources exist in the Church to help you discern what is true and what is not true about Jesus or the content of Christian faith?
When the New Testament was being codified (a process also known as the formation of the Canon), there were three primary criterion used to determine whether writings should be included or not: orthodoxy (that is, whether the writing was consistent with what was believed to be true faith), liturgical use (that is, was it already being used in a spiritually life-giving role for the Church), and connection to apostolic origin (that is, was its origin from who knew Jesus first- hand). Which of these criteria would best serve us today as we strive to resolve questions of faith?
When is it acceptable to believe something that is not contained in the Scriptures, and what is an example of such a belief?
[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, (31 May, 1998), 21: AAS 90 [1998], pp. 713-776.
Divine Mercy. Eugeniusz Kazimirowski. Oil on canvas, 1934. Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy, Vilnius.
John 20:19-31

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.

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