Commentary: Divine Mercy Sunday Year B

First Reading: Acts 4:32–35
Response: Psalm 118:1
Second Reading: 1 John 5:1–6

Gospel: John 20:19–31
19 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.

Today’s Gospel teaches us about the need to gather together to find the Lord’s blessing in the community of the Church, in His Word, and in the sacraments. They are gathered together on Sunday. It’s possible that Thomas withdrew from the others due to the devastation of Christ’s death (a common approach when we are in fear). —> Essential that we gather together each Sunday. The blessing occurs only in the context of the gathering. Thomas misses out. ~ Msgr. Pope

Jesus brings a new reality, a new peace, a new vision. Through His Word, we are increasingly enabled to see things in a new way, one that gives us hope, clarity, and confidence. Our lives are reordered. Inwardly, too, a greater peace is meant to come upon us as the truth of this newer vision begins to transform us, giving us a new mind and heart. ~ Msgr. Pope

20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sin. Note that He is not simply giving them the ability to announce that we are forgiven; He is giving them the juridical power to forgive or in certain cases to withhold/delay forgiveness. This is extraordinary! Not only has He given this authority to men (cf Matt 9:8), He has given it to the very men who abandoned Him (with the exception of John) at His crucifixion. These are men who are well aware of their shortcomings. Perhaps it is only because Jesus knows of their awareness that He can truly trust them with such power. ~ Msgr. Pope

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.

“What He brings back with him upon his return from the Cross, death, and hell is ultimate, perfect peace. A peace “not as the world gives”, but a much deeper peace. This takes place in three scenes. First he wishes for his disciples the peace that he himself is (Eph 2:14). He backs this up by showing them his wounds. It is precisely the deadly work that men have done to him which is the foundation for the peace that emanates from him. Hatred has raged against him but his love had the greater stamina. The focus is not on reconciliation with the disciples who had shamefully denied him and fled; all of that is submerged under the great peace he offers them. Yet his gift goes much father. He breathes on them and bestows on them his own spirit of mission, the Spirit that empowers and authorizes them to pass on to other men the peace he has given them… All of this must take place in faith, hence the episode with Thomas. An attitude of believing surrender rather than insistence on seeing and experiencing is the prerequisite for receiving peace, for any reception of a divine gift. One can have no peace as long as he doubts and holds back. He has to fall down and say in faith: “My Lord, and my God! … In the first reading the first Church’s unity is the sign that its members are living the peace of Jesus” (Balthasar, LW, 185-6).

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