2nd Sunday Easter A
Sunday 16th April 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jn 20: 19-31
On the evening of that first day, the disciples had locked themselves away in fear of the Jews. Then Jesus just came and stood in their midst saying: ‘Peace to you!’ As he said this he stretched out both his hands to show his wounds and he also showed them his side. The disciples were overwhelmed with joy on seeing the Lord. Again he said to them: ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I send you.’ Then he breathed on them saying: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive someone’s sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive, they are unforgiven.’
Thomas the Twin, one of the disciples, wasn’t there with them that night when Jesus came. When they told him: ‘We have seen the Lord!’ he said: ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and can thrust my finger where those nails were, and unless I can thrust my hand into his side, I refuse to believe!’
A week later, they were together in the house and Thomas was with them. Jesus came into their midst, again through locked doors, and said: ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas. ‘Here, come, bring your finger, see, here, are the marks! Bring your hand, thrust it into my side! Do not be unbelieving but believe!’ Thomas answered: ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus answered: ‘Because you’ve seen me, you believe. God blesses those who, without seeing, still believe.’
Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples but they haven’t been written down in this book. These were written down so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, by believing, have life in his name.
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 117: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Let all the people say:
God’s love is forever.
Let all the priests say:
God’s love is forever.
Let all revering God say:
God’s love is forever.
I was pushed, shoved, falling
but God helped me.
God is my strength, my song,
salvation to me.
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in tents of the righteous.
The stone rejected by the builders
now holds the building together.
God did this
and we marvel to see it.
God made this day
so let us rejoice and celebrate.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Lord God, your Son Jesus truly entered into the sin and suffering of our world and through his love transformed them. May he breathe upon us his Holy Spirit that we may truly witness to his forgiveness in our world. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel, the second half of chapter 20, is the conclusion of the Gospel of John – chapter 21 is an addition. In this Chapter 20, we have the 4 stories of faith in the Risen Jesus. Firstly, there is the Beloved Disciple, who believes when he sees the burial clothes. Then, there is Mary Magdalene who believes when Jesus calls her by name. She desires to cling to him but Jesus sends her to preach to his disciples. This Sunday’s Gospel tells of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples and then eight days later to Thomas.
Fear has the disciples locked away. Jesus, not constrained by doors, comes among them and in showing his hands and side ‘proves’ that he really is the one whom they had known and loved, and who had died. As with all the Resurrection Stories, Jesus is shown as the same person the disciples had known but he is not confined by materiality. He is who he was but much more.
Jesus appears to the ‘disciples’ – no numbers or names are given. In these few short verses his words and actions recall the major themes of the Last Discourse. He repeatedly offers ‘Peace’, he states that as the Father sent him, they are now being sent out in turn by Jesus into the world. In other words, the relationship they have with him is to mirror his relationship with the Father. To fulfil that mission, he breathes on them the Holy Spirit. This is the Johannine Pentecost. The distinctive power given by the Spirit is in relation to sins. Here ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ sends the disciples into the world to deal with sin: they will offer forgiveness to those who come into the light. Those who refuse to believe will have the sinfulness of their lives revealed by the light of the faith of believers.
One disciple is not there – Thomas. The disciples witness to him but he refuses to believe, unless Jesus fulfils his criteria. Twice, already, in this Gospel, Thomas’ capacity for misunderstanding has been used by Jesus to reveal a deeper truth. Confronted with the wounds he demanded, Thomas gives the final and supreme title of this Gospel to Jesus: ‘My Lord and my God!’ This is the climax of the narrative. Now Jesus calls ‘blessed’ all the readers and hearers of the Gospel, who have never seen him but who still believe because of the witness of his fragile, but faith-filled and joyful community.
On that note, the author turns to all his readers, and to us, offering his reasons for writing. What he revealed concerning the Word of God in the Prologue and through the many signs of the Gospel has truly been fulfilled. We, who have read about or heard of the journey of Jesus through this world, are invited to belief and through belief to the fullness of life.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
In the Gospel of John, the giving of the Holy Spirit is associated with the power to deal with sin. The power to forgive is given to all disciples and is to be the distinctive mark of Christians. This isn’t the human forgiveness that can say ‘it’s okay’ after an apology is offered and restoration is made. No, this is the power to deal with dirty, dark, raw sin. Jesus’ forgiveness leads to a profound transformation of the heart that enables us to offer peace, love and benevolence to people who have deeply wronged us, irrespective of whether they repent or not. It is loving as God loves.
Julie Morris, in her book Forgiving the Dead Man Walking recounts her journey, her long journey, of coming to forgive Robert Lee Willie, a murderer and rapist, who had abducted her, repeatedly raped her and threatened her with death. The effect of the trauma in her life is clearly told: her life was a mess. Her anger lashed out in all directions, to her parents, to herself, to Robert Willie, to her God. Only as she forgave herself and others did her life grow to some form of equanimity. The struggle to forgive Robert Willie was long and hard and, at heart, it was a struggle to understand and enter into God’s way of loving. Her forgiveness was not cheap. She carries her wounds, not as symbols of defeat, but as signs of the Spirit’s power to transform our hearts in ways beyond our imaginings. She learnt to love as God loves.
This power to forgive is Jesus’ Resurrection gift to each of us. We each have our own story, our pains, our wounds, times when we have sinned and when we have been sinned against. We know what dirty, dark, raw sin is. Still Jesus comes to us, showing us his wounds, breathing the Holy Spirit upon us and telling us that we too can love as God loves us.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
– The following paintings are all of Jesus’ meeting with Thomas.
Caravaggio’s paintingsare often confronting. This points to the reality of Christ’s suffering.
– In this painting by Guercino see look of love that Jesus bestows on Thomas
– This 15th Century Russian icon is stylised to invite to look beyond the scene into the deeper reality of what Jesus was revealing to Thomas.
– This painting is by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese a Malaysian Christian Artist. If you click the Up button you will enter into a gallery of work on biblical themes which is well work the visit.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
Peace is Jesus’ Easter to gift to us. Being the first fruit of his Paschal Mystery, it is a peace different from what the world calls peace – calm, tranquillity, absence of conflict. No, Jesus’ peace is something vigorous and strong that enables us to bring the grace of God into all the situations of our life.
As you go through this week, mull over how the Peace of Jesus could transform the various situations of your life.
– in marriage
– in family
– at work
– in the chores you have to do
– in what happens when you drive, shop, wait for someone.
As you do these things, ask Jesus to come and stand among you with the victory of his love.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
We all have our moments of doubt and scepticism. Thomas’ resulted in a deeper faith and insight into the person of Jesus. In this meditation, we will show Jesus our doubts and see what revelation he offers us.
Sit quietly with your God. Affirm the love that has been offered to you in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
When you are at rest in that love, open your mind and heart to the various doubts that may disturb you. Continuing to rest in God’s love, chose one doubt and draw out its implications. Offer this to Jesus and ask him what this doubt can teach you about the mystery of God’s love and revelation.
Sitting quietly, see how God could view that doubt. Can you think of people you could talk to, books you could read that would help you explore its meaning? Do not be afraid of the doubt: Jesus himself is the Truth and he can use it to led you to deeper love and trust.
Ask God for wisdom and guidance.
Rest in the love of your God.