1 John 5:1-6
This Sunday has various significances. In the earliest faith communities, on this Second Sunday of Easter, the newly baptized no longer wore their white garments received when they died to the old self and “put on Christ.” They were now in the Body, for the Body, working with the Body to restore the earthly life to its originally intended harmony of the Creator / Father God.
This Second Sunday of Easter has come to be known as Divine Mercy. With our Savior returning, appearing time and time again with the wounds of betrayal and a horrible death, He restores forgiveness, mercy and peace (which the world, alone, cannot accomplish). And so we, The Body of God involved in the Resurrection of the life of the world. And, thirdly, there is this whole story of Thomas’ growing into belief. As one author puts it, “Thomas had to see Jesus in His presence before He would believe in his absence.” So Jesus had to appear again to convince Thomas. After his appearance to him, Jesus promptly disappeared again. He was more absent than present. Once they would recognize Him off he would go.
So the Easter story is more about his disappearances than of his appearances. It was as if he wanted to indicate to them: “All right, I am alive. Do not have any doubt about that, not even you, Thomas. But I will be absent. I will absent all the rest of your time. It will all be up to you!” Up to us? Yes. Taking up our responsibility to enter into the process, the mission, which he came to introduce to the world. So how does he teach them to react to His absence? His first gesture was without words. He blew over them. “forgive, change all those shadows of the past.” (I could talk about some of those evil shadows from the past that continue to haunt the state of Alabama but there is neither space nor time). And at His final “disappearance,” which was the most dramatic – His Ascension.
He told them from above, “Go out into the whole world and bring them all together: one Father, one Mother, and one brother one sister, One Spirit, one family, the life of all!” “It is all up to you.” That is why he blew over them, giving them His Spirit before He left, leaving us in His absence, as long as we will be here in this world.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P. is president of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School, Birmingham, Alabama.