Gospel Reflection 2nd Sunday of Easter 2023

(John 20:19-31)

-Veronica Lawson RSM


Not so long ago we used to speak of the Sundays “after” Easter. The terminology has changed and we now speak of the Sundays “of” Easter. In other words, we now recognise that the liturgical readings and prayers for each Sunday between Easter and Pentecost invite us into different movements of the one great symphony of resurrection faith. Today’s gospel tells of fear and joy and blessing. We bring our present experience of climate crisis and ongoing pandemic into dialogue with all of this.

The first scene in today’s gospel has the disciples hiding behind closed doors “for fear” of those who had handed Jesus over to be executed by the Roman authorities. As supporters of someone executed on a political charge, they had reason to be fearful. Jesus appears among them, offers a greeting of peace, and tells them that he has been sent by God, his “Father”. They receive from him the gift of the Holy Spirit. He sends them in turn to bring peace and to mediate the forgiveness of God through the power of the Spirit.  The story invites us as believers to place ourselves in the shoes of the earliest disciples. It invites us to be open to receive the gift of the Spirit, to emerge from behind the doors that close us in on ourselves and that prevent us from rising above the fear of reprisals in the pursuit of justice and peace.

The second and third scenes in today’s gospel focus on Thomas who was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared in their midst. Thomas seems to trust only his own experience. We all know people like Thomas. They test our patience because they seem to lack imagination. Then they make big statements when they come around to understanding what everyone else has known for a while. If we think, however, that those who hear in the first place are any better than Thomas, we need to note that the doors are still closed eight days later! The simple fact of knowing has not dispelled the fears. Even those who do believe and trust often need time to take the gospel message on board.

All three readings this Sunday affirm those who believe without “seeing”. In the reading from Acts, many who had not seen the resurrected Jesus are drawn to the community of faith-filled believers. The community addressed in 1 Peter have “never seen him [the Christ]” and yet they love him and are filled with inexpressible joy. In the gospel, we too are declared blessed: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”,

         As we continue to celebrate Easter, we join with the global community in celebrating the 53rd annual Earth Day next Saturday. The theme for 2023 is “Invest in our Planet”. We have listened to the science on Coronavirus and, for the most part, taken courageous action. We might pray for the same courageous action to save our planetary home.