BILINGUAL REFLECTIONS FOR SUNDAY
SECOND SUNDAYOF EASTER(A)John 20: 19-31
April 23, 2017
“When the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, Peace be with you …Receive the Holy Spirit.”
There is a children game called hide-and-seek. A group of players conceal themselves in the environment or in the house to be found by a seeker. One of the players counts to a predetermined number while the other players go and hide. Then the seeker attempts to locate the concealed players. At times the smart kid finds them immediately; sometimes he takes too long to find the hidden players. In this case they get bored waiting and waiting to be found, in an uncomfortable stillbody position, to the point that they start giving clues, by calling the person´s name, or by making noise. When the boy or girl finds them, they feel release, and the winner, in this case, the seeker, gets a prize.
In today´s Gospel the disciples are hiding themselves in a room and with the doors locked, not exactly playing a game, but for fear of the Jews. When they are found by Jesus, it is them who get not only one, but three prizes: peace, joy, and the Holy Spirit. Later on, they should give in return, forgiveness.
Jesus comes into the upper room and offers his disciples what they need more at the time, peace and joy. His first gift is peace, “Peace be with you.” Then he offers a second gift, the joy of his risen presence, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” But also the Lord gives them a third gift that makes peace and joy possible, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
As all our readings during the Easter time deal with the consequences of the resurrection,the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles sees the growth of the Christian community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, describing their daily life in three aspects: the teaching of the apostles, the communal living and responsibility for each other, and the celebration of the Eucharist and prayer: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and prayer (…) and had all things in common.”
Peter writing to new Christians coming from the Gentile world encourages them to live with their baptismal faith and hope the many trails and persecution they are enduring: “God (…) in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
With the bestowing of the Spirit, and the gifts of peace and joy, Jesus gives his disciples the power to forgive sins. The ministry given by Jesus to the Church to forgive sins includes the authority to bind and loose, and to forgive sins committed after baptism. In this text the Church, in the Council of Trent, bases the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus shows his forgiveness as he pardons Thomas´ practical and sincere doubt, by giving him the gift to profess an also practical and sincere faith, “My Lord and my God.”
The gifts Jesus gives us on Easter Sunday, the first day of the week: peace, joy, and Holy Spirit, are a new creation. And the first day is always the day of creation. Every year we hear this wonderful story of Jesus´ resurrection and his appearance to his disciples. This is not simply a matter of historical recall, but the renewal of his Paschal gifts. What else, but peace, joy, and reconciliation do we need in our world, our nation, our family, and our personal life today?