April 19, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter, Year A
In today’s Gospel passage we find the disciples locked in the Upper Room. The evangelist John underlines at least two times (Jn 20:19, 26) that the doors of the place where the disciples are located are locked. In verse 19, he also clarified the reason for this lockdown: fear.
The disciples, therefore, are afraid, and we know that fear causes lockdown, it locks.
But fear is not the only reason. There is another one: the disciples locked themselves in the Upper Room because they are not expecting anyone. After the death of Jesus, everything was over for them and there was nothing more to await. Somehow, they were closed in a sepulcher, just as Jesus had been some days earlier.
Right there, however, Jesus comes, He enters. We said on Palm Sunday that the style of God is to visit, to enter life, to bring new life. Here, the Risen Christ continues to visit, just as He had done countless times before His passion and death. And He visits even when persons no longer expect anything, when they think that nothing new can happen again. Then the Lord comes.
He visits His disciples, locked in the sepulcher of their fears and He re-establishes a relationship, He reopens a relationship that was interrupted. He does it, strangely, with the Apostle Thomas. We could say that the love of the Lord for His disciples knows different way and attentions, according to the need of each one. And since Thomas was absent at the first visit, and since he has trouble in believing, Jesus addressed him.
We underline two aspects of this encounter.
The first is what happens through the body: hands, feet, rib, wounds…
Just as before His Passion, Jesus usually encountered persons in the concreteness of their own bodies – touching and being touched, caressing and embracing – so to the unbelieving Thomas Jesus offers His own body to touch, to see, to love. Just as through His body He healed the wounds of sickness, so He heals the wounds of Thomas, his unbelief.
The second aspect pertains to the fact that Jesus invites Thomas to go beyond the physical element.
After Jesus showed His wounds and asked him to touch them, we are not told what gesture Thomas performs (John 20:27); a few verses earlier, in the encounter with Mary of Magdala, Jesus requests not to hold on to Him, don’t stop to touch (John 20:17). In both cases, it is a question of a new touching, of experiencing the encounter with Jesus differently in respect to what they were used to doing before the Pasch.
Jesus asks to begin with a renewed faith, capable of not stopping at His crucified body, of learning to touch the ecclesial and spiritual body of the Lord.
We could say that this call to a relationship of faith, has the purpose of getting the apostles out from their sepulcher, from their shell, from their fears, from their desperation.
They will thus be able in turn to visit, to reach people where they are, in their situations, and to do what Jesus did with them, that is to open their eyes to a new experience, to let a little light enter. The first Christian community was born from that experience of encounter with the Risen Lord, who had given them the Holy Spirit and sent them out from the Upper Room. And in this way, that little Church had been capable of touching, in turn, the wounds of the poor and the crucified of that time and all time, to thus heal so many bodies sick from loneliness, isolation, fear.
This Gospel, this year, is as relevant as ever. Because on the one hand, we are marked by the heavy experience of not being able to touch each other, to shake hands, to embrace. On the other hand, perhaps we are called to “touch” in a new, deeper way starting from the common experience of the Lord who visits us in our life situations, touches our wounds, opens us to an awareness of ourselves as part of a single Body.