Reflection for the second Sunday of Easter

Reading: John 20: 19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reflection

A couple of weeks ago, the phone rang in the rectory and the voice at the other end said: ‘This is the Garda Control Unit, we have received a panic alarm from you and we have people outside your house’. Sure enough, when I looked out the window, there was a Garda and a Sergeant walking in through the gate. The reason for the panic activation was that an engineer from the alarm company was working on the system and had triggered the panic button. I explained this and apologised to the Gardaí and one of them said, ‘Well, at least now you know it works!’

That incident made me think how terrifying it would be to have to set off the panic button because of a real intrusion. The fact that the gardaí arrived so promptly is evidence that attacks like that do happen to people, and it must be terrible for anybody who lives in fear of such an incident.

St. John tells us ‘the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear’. They were afraid that the same people who had Jesus arrested, tried and executed might well come looking for his followers also. It was a very real fear, but they were also deeply perturbed and confused. Mary Magdalene had reported to them earlier that she had seen the Lord and described her encounter with Jesus at the tomb. Numb with grief, paralysed with fear, and confused by rumours that made no sense to them, they hid behind locked doors.

And then everything changed. Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. When they realised it really was him and they saw the evidence of his wounds, they were overjoyed. Even Thomas, who refused to believe their testimony, was convinced when he saw Jesus a week later, making that strongest declaration of faith in Christ: ‘My Lord and my God!’ John condenses this resurrection appearance, the giving of the Holy Spirit and the commission by Our Lord, sending the disciples to bring the message of God’s love and forgiveness to the world.

And so that frightened group of people hiding behind locked doors were to fulfil that commission. They were transformed into a dynamic movement that brought the life-changing gospel to the world.

We get a vivid picture of this transformed group of Apostles and the community they founded in the short reading from Acts chapter four. The same people who had hidden in fear in that upper room gave their testimony to the resurrection with ‘great power’. So powerful was their witness that many others came to believe and that belief transformed their lives.

Those few sentences from the Acts describe a community that was united with a common purpose, and there was no one needy among them because they shared everything they had. This is a powerful image of the church in its earliest days: people who believed in the risen Jesus, lived the way he taught them to, and proclaimed the gospel boldly and powerfully.

Easter is such a special time in the calendar of the church; it is the very foundation of our belief and the reason for our hope and joy. After the cross of Good Friday, Christ rose from the dead, defeating sin and death, opening the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

In the opening words of St. John’s gospel, the author said of Christ: ‘What has come into being in him was life’. Having told his story, at its conclusion he tells us why he wrote it: ‘So that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’. We who believe in Christ are called to live that life just as those early followers did – not behind closed doors, but in love and service to the world.

Collect Second Sunday of Easter

Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
Grant us so to put away the leaven
of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Christ, our risen Lord, no tomb can keep you,
No door is closed to you, no heart is barred to you,
No mind is shut from you.
Come lead us out of darkness into light,
Out of doubt into faith, out of death into life eternal:
Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who witness to your resurrection,
for those who speak of your presence,
for all ministers of your word and sacraments,
for those who reveal your presence by the way they live,
for all who live simply so that others may simply live.
We pray for all who are in doubt and for all who seek you.
We ask your blessing for this diocese, its people, and Pat our bishop.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for our country, for world leaders and governments,
for the World Health Organisation and for international cooperation
in the battle to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
Grant them wisdom and guidance so that the vaccination programme
may be delivered fairly across the world to those in most need.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

We come today with the oppressed people of the world,
with all who have lost their freedom, all who have lost hope.
We pray for all who suffer oppression or poverty,
all who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs
and all who have suffered isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
that in darkness, they may find your love.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for our homes and families, our communities and friends,
for our parish and those with whom we share worship.
As you appeared to the disciples in the upper room,
so may we know your loving presence with us each day.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

We remember all who are despairing, those who have lost confidence,
those who doubt their abilities and are afraid to trust themselves and others.
We remember all who are lonely or fearful for the future.
We pray for all who struggle with ill health, those undergoing treatment, tests,
or recovering from surgery.
May they find healing and hope in you, Risen Christ.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

Risen Lord, in you is our hope,
We rejoice with all who have entered into the fulness of life eternal.
We remember with thanksgiving our loved ones departed this life
and pray that we may come to share with them in your eternal kingdom.

Merciful Father
Accept these our prayers
For the sake of your Son,
Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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