4-23-2017 Second Sunday of Easter
Apr 24, 2017
Easter II / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Today’s Gospel is a wonderful picture of the Resurrected Lord present and active in the Church. When I say "present and active," I mean that. I think that there is a tendency to read the Gospel stories as if we were reading only about past events. When we hear the Christmas story, for example, we think of a cold night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Or, when we hear the Easter story, we think, "I wonder what that was like." Our minds think "past" not "present."
It is always good to remember that the Gospel is living and active today. Christ is born in our midst today! Christ rose and lives among us today! The Gospels always speak of the present, of Jesus living among us, active among us, even today.
So what does our Gospel tell us about the Resurrected Lord present and active in the Church?
It is the evening of Easter, the evening of the Resurrection, the evening of the first day. It is a new beginning, a new creation, a new age. This harkens back to the Book of Genesis, which opens the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word."
That Word is present now to the disciples, but they have not yet grasped the meaning of the Resurrection. They are huddled in fear, in darkness (evening), behind locked doors, fearful that the fate of Jesus might become their fate. The disciples, of course, represent all of us (remember "present"). All of us are present in our own "upper room," filled with fear—fear of death, fear of suffering, fear of bad times, fear of isolation, fear of ourselves!
Into that upper room of fear "Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’" Jesus is the same, but different—this is Jesus as "the new creation," his glorified humanity. Jesus is "embodied," but he can pass through locked doors. Jesus
lives now beyond time, beyond space, beyond death. Pope Benedict calls this "the great evolutionary leap forward"—humanity renewed, humanity glorified.
When Jesus offers his peace, he shows the disciples the nail marks in his hands and his pierced side. As one commentator said, "present here is the whole drama of Christianity." It must have been painful for the disciples to see the wounds—the signs of sinful humanity: "It was our sins that he bore." God came into the world, and the world did not know him. The Risen Lord bears the wounds of humanity—our dysfunction—but there is no recrimination, no vengeance, no blame. God is love, and God is reconciliation.
Jesus then sends the disciples out, on mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." There is no experience of God without mission. When we experience the risen Lord, like the disciples, our first impulse is mission: to spread the Good News—to share what we have received.
The final element in our Gospel today is the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sin (I’ll have to save the "doubting Thomas" for another time!). Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
Again we hear an echo of Genesis, where God breathes life into the human beings he created. Now, spiritual life is breathed into us and the Church—with the power to forgive sins—to remove the greatest stumbling block in our relationship with the Lord. A powerful, parting gift to the Church!
So what does the Church look like when the Risen Lord is present and active in it? It looks peaceful, unafraid, on mission, Spirit-filled, forgiving.
Blessed are we who have not seen and have believed—because the Risen Lord is present and active among us.