SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Miami
19 April 2020
The Gospel we’ve heard on this Easter Sunday places us on the evening of that unforgettable “first day of the week”, the day of the Lord’s resurrection. From the very beginning, the first day of the week was also the day of the celebration of the Eucharist, when the disciples gathered to remember Jesus and to joyfully celebrate his presence in their midst, as we do now.
The Gospel says that on that day Jesus “came” and “stood in their midst” (Jn 20:19). Two very suggestive verbs are used to describe the experience of the Risen Lord: “coming” and “standing in the midst” of the community.
With the resurrection, the Lord hasn’t gone away, but rather has come, and is always coming, full of love and mercy to give hope and life to the world. By coming, he doesn’t stay far away or on the sidelines, nor does he place himself above, but “in the midst”—in the center of the Christian community. Meanwhile, we are all around him and no one is above anyone else; everyone is listening to him and welcoming him with joy and gratitude.
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” (John 20:26-29).
This is the experience that we’re called to live every Sunday, every first day of the week when we gather in His name to celebrate the Eucharist. Unfortunately, because of the global crisis caused by the pandemic, there already have been several Sundays when we’ve been unable to join the community for the celebration of the Eucharist. This is an abnormal situation, which we hope to overcome very soon.
Faith is not made up of ideas, nor is it sustained in a virtual way. The Church lives out her faith through direct contact and closeness to her brothers and sisters. Faith in Jesus is certainly intimate and personal, but it is also communal, lived in community, and nourished by the Eucharistic table.
Faith in Jesus is certainly intimate and personal, but it is also communal, lived in community, and nourished by the Eucharistic table. -Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.Tweet
We hope that soon we’ll be able to gather again to meet Jesus in the celebration of the sacrament of the bread of life. In the meantime, let’s continue to open our hearts to the Lord every Sunday from our homes. As he was present in the midst of his people on that first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were gathered, so too he’s present today in our homes through the possibilities offered by technology. For now, we have to experience our closeness to the Lord in this way, but, as the Pope recently said, this way of experiencing faith is “to get out of the tunnel, not to stay there” (Homily, 17 April 2020).
Peace be with you
The disciples experienced the encounter with the Risen Christ as a moment of infinite mercy. Before his Passion, one betrayed and sold him, another denied him, all the others fled and are now locked in, filled with fear. There were reasons for Jesus to rebuke and even reject them. However, that wasn’t the case. Jesus appears in their midst and greets them in a surprising way: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19,21,26), a phrase that is repeated three times in today’s Gospel. Jesus doesn’t reproach or accuse them. Just one word: “peace”.
“Peace”, the biblical shalom, contains all the possible benefits that human beings long for—from physical health and personal well-being to right relationships with others, serenity within, and forgiveness from God.
The phrase “peace be with you!”, which was spoken by Jesus, isn’t simply a greeting, best wishes, or a promise, but an affirmation: peace is here and now, peace is a reality within you. It’s a peace that falls down upon you because it comes from God. It’s a peace that gives health to ailing bodies and makes us overcome the fears that overwhelm us; it’s a peace that frees us from the sense of guilt and gives us the strength to fulfill our broken dreams; it’s a peace that gives us hope and strength in the midst of the dissatisfactions and problems that color our days with sadness.
Peace is the great gift of the Risen Jesus. Only with the peace that comes from above, which heals the heart and opens it to love, can we be witnesses and peacemakers in the world. Those who are brokenhearted, bitter, and full of selfish ambitions still haven’t come to know the peace that comes from above.
Without the peace of the Risen Lord we risk living with a profound inner emptiness, never being able to communicate any peace, joy, or hope—only suspicion and fear.
Those glorious wounds
Then, Jesus “showed them his hands and his side” (Jn 20:20). The resurrection hasn’t erased the signs of the Passion; it hasn’t closed the holes in Jesus’ hands or removed the wound from his side.
In the flesh of Jesus, love has written its story with the alphabet of the wounds. They are indelible wounds just the same as love is indelible. Love heals us, lifts us up, and makes us strong. When we say that “we’re in the hands of the Lord” or that “we abandon ourselves into his hands,” let’s not forget that they’re love-scarred hands that support, console, and care for us.
The wounds of Jesus are glorious wounds that reveal a limitless horizon of hope. And the wounds of afflicted humanity, which today is suffering the scourge of a pandemic, also will be healed and one day will be part of the new world where we will die no more.
Jesus’ glorious wounds also assure us that God will heal all our wounds suffered out of love, suffered in fighting for a better world. This is the heart of the Easter faith that sustains us—so that we don’t become discouraged and never lose hope.
Jesus’ glorious wounds also assure us that God will heal all our wounds suffered out of love, suffered in fighting for a better world. -Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.Tweet
Reaching out to Thomas
Today’s gospel recounts the experience of Thomas, who wasn’t with the community of disciples the first time Jesus came and so he refused to believe what the others told him. Something so surprising and unprecedented like the triumph of life over death must be experienced personally; it can’t be accepted simply because others say so. That is why eight days later when Thomas is present with the community Jesus “comes” again and “stands in their midst”, exactly as he did the first time.
The Lord speaks directly to Thomas. Jesus gives the impression that he has come for this reason alone—he wants with all his heart for Thomas to meet with him. Jesus is always looking for us, he understands our weaknesses and he adapts to our limitations.
With great mercy, Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds; however, Thomas, discovering himself loved despite his unbelief, doesn’t hesitate even for a moment and makes a magnificent profession of faith: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas doesn’t need to touch the wounds to believe; it is enough for him to see, feel, and welcome Jesus’ love in his heart.
To believe is to discover that you are loved. Love allows us to see that which we can’t perceive with our own eyes. Faith comes from the Lord’s love, which freely envelops us, despite our sins and unbelief; and that’s when we begin to see—we don’t see to believe, but when we come to believe, we begin to see.
Jesus addresses his final beatitude to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29). This is a beatitude addressed to those of us who are groping about in the night of faith. Jesus isn’t forcing himself on us—he doesn’t dazzle us with his glory so that we should believe in him. The believer is free and lives the faith as a supreme expression of his freedom.
Faith isn’t submission, but rather it’s acceptance of a presence that waits to be perceived in love. -Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.Tweet
Believers “see” with the eyes of faith, which are the eyes of the Christian community, gathered on the first day of the week to listen to the Word of God and break the Eucharistic bread. Faith in the Risen Christ allows us to live a life that isn’t easier, but it’s more fulfilling, vibrant, and filled with light and love.