April 23, 2017
Second Sunday of Easter
John’s Gospel opened with an announcement full of wonder: “The Word became flesh and came to dwell among us” (Jn 1:14). It is the wonder of the mystery of the Incarnation, for this choice of the Son of God to travel the distance that separated Him from men, and to find, in our midst, a space of full communion.
Risen again, Jesus continues to do exactly the same thing: his own are gathered together in the house, closed within their fears, Jesus comes and stands among them (Jn 20:19). Death did not stop him from doing what He loves, that is being in communion with his friends. Indeed, His risen body, which conquered death, now can always stand beside his disciples, making himself always present: Easter makes Christ present, it makes Christ an eternal present.
United again and forever among his own, Jesus makes some gestures of great intensity, and immediately He shares Paschal gifts issuing from the mystery of his death and resurrection.
First of all, He makes himself known by showing His body, his wounds (Jn 20:20).
First, he shows them so that the disciples may perceive a continuity between the passion and the resurrection, so that they cannot doubt that it is He, Jesus, the Crucified.
But He also shows the wounds to give them and us an insight that there is no resurrection that does not pass through suffering, that one does not rise unless he carries in his body the signs of the love by which he has loved.
The disciples, from now on, will recognize Jesus by these glorious wounds, imprinted in His body.
And the disciples cannot be His body unless they take these wounds, without reliving His same passion of love.
The first word, then, the first gift Jesus gives to His disciples is peace: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He can do it, He can give peace, because He has finally established His kingdom, which is really the kingdom of peace: peace between heaven and earth, peace between neighbors and those far away (cf. Eph. 2). And He can do it because he has conquered the enemy, sin and death, which have always been the cause of war and division.
The peace of Christ is a great reconciliation, an embrace given from atop the cross.
The second gesture is that of breathing on His own in order to give the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22): according to the account of the Acts of the Apostles, this does not happen until after 50 days from Easter (Acts 2). In John, on the other hand, Jesus seems impatient to give this gift, and He does so immediately in the evening; because the end of Easter is not simply that Jesus is risen, but that the new life He received from the Father He may pass on to the disciples: that is why He came. It was not enough for Him to love them, but He wanted to give them love so that they also could live with that fullness of love that Jesus experiences in communion with the Father.
The third gift is that of forgiveness (Jn 20:23), also this one is a fruit of the Passion, written on the wounds of His body: one can only forgive by passing through the cross.
These three gifts – the Spirit, peace and forgiveness – are the new life God has always wanted to give to people and which the Passover of Christ has finally realized.
But these are gifts to share, with everyone.
It is not enough for Jesus that His disciples live happily ever after, in peace with each other and with God.
As He has not been sent for Himself, neither can the disciples live for themselves. And so immediately, that same evening, Jesus opens the doors and sends them out: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). And He sends them to give nothing but all the good and love they have received: as they have been forgiven, so they must bring forgiveness (Jn 20:23) that is peace, so that His Kingdom spreads everywhere.
We can see how this experience, which the Apostles had on Easter evening, is also our experience, our life, as it happens in the Apostle Thomas’ life.
The Gospel account says that that evening Thomas was not present, and therefore the other apostles tell him about the incident. But Thomas needs to see and touch, because one cannot believe if one does not personally encounter the risen Lord.
And the Lord comes for him, so that Thomas believes that this experience is possible to all, and that we must all pass through the same, entering by our life these blessed wounds. And that this – and only this – makes us pass from being unbelievers to being believers.
Thomas’ disbelief, perhaps, is not so much in disbelieving the Lord’s resurrection, as in doubting that this experience can be for everyone; in fearing that only those who were present that evening can have this privilege, and all the others would be excluded from it. Instead, this blessing is for everyone. Blessed are the eyes that see (cf. Lk 10:23), but equally blessed are the eyes that do not see (Jn 20:29).
Because henceforth there is something even greater than seeing. It is no longer to see the Lord, but to see with the Lord’s own eyes, to be inhabited from within, by His own life, by His own Spirit.
And this is possible for all, because it is not an exterior but inner experience, a passage from the outside to the inside, and to make room in the heart for a Word which is the memory of what has been seen, and that, in love, always remains present, present and true.
Original version in italian