Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35
The first Christian community shared their possessions, and no one was needy.
The Lord’s mercy endures forever.
1 John 5:1-6
Those who love God keep his commandments.
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter in each of the lectionary cycles. This fact alone should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus that are described in this reading. This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.
Part of the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection is that he appeared to his disciples not as a spirit, but in bodily form. We do not know, however, exactly what this form looked like. Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Mary of Magdala first encountered the risen Jesus, she did not recognize him until he spoke to her. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them. We know from readings such as today’s that in his resurrected form, Jesus was not bound by matter; he appeared to the disciples inside a home even though the door was locked. Yet the disciples could still touch the marks of his Crucifixion.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun; as Jesus was sent by God, so Jesus sends his disciples. He gives his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they will be able to accomplish this task. Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share forgiveness and reconciliation with others.
Thomas, the doubting disciple in today’s reading, represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of witnesses to Jesus. All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing. Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples. Our human nature seeks hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death is indeed the same Jesus who was crucified. Thomas is given the opportunity to be our representative in obtaining this evidence. He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who died. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed, for we have not seen and yet believe.