April 11, 2021. Second Sunday of Easter. Spring’s bravest bulbs welcoming the warmth. Rising vaccination rates and rising COVID cases. Life and death cycling endlessly in our linear lives. New learnings emerging with every day. Losses and miracles linger together in memory’s landscape; goodness and hope resist, persist, untarnished by bursts of violence, self-centered greed, and cruel stigmas. And so the octave of Easter pries open the best of who we can be right next to the raw truths of who we are, opening the door to the promised tomorrow. From the very beginning, the readings of the day glow with transformative love.
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind…” are the opening words of the First Reading. So brief, so simple, so powerful. Community. BELIEVERS. One heart. One mind. There is an alluring power in the cadence of the words, and a tone confiding a fullness of joy, the kind of love that welcomes, heals and binds; the kind of love that is judgment free and freely given. There is a vivid life here that spills into the Second Reading from the First Letter of John. Believers trust that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God; that common denominator is the foundation for visibly choosing goodness, choosing to love, to follow the commandments. The joy of believing in the resurrrection, of knowing within. the love of God, is the Easter invitation re-issued and shows the very best of human beings embracing goodness and hope, being changed by love.
But this Sunday offers far more in the words of the Gospel. There is the fear of Apostles locked within the Upper Room, a fear dissipated by “Peace be with you…” and the missioning to create the community itself. But juxtaposed with this liberating sense of promise and hope is the reality fo who we are: skeptics and doubters, all embodied in the outspoken Thomas. Thomas is more than a doubter, and his uncertainty was not necessarily mistrust of his peers. Instead, there is a wonderful way in which Thomas is personally invited and personally embraces the reality of the resurrected Jesus, His appearance. That invitation goes to all humanity. Death is transformed into the life of love: the experience of Jesus generates connections to Him and to one another. It all occurs within the shadow of the grief of the cross.
In a time of such wild transitions and change, the simplicity of Scripture speaks across the centuries. The dignity of the readings is anchored to the reality of human needs and hopes and purpose. Unadorned by images, lyrics, illustrations, words capture rich realities with the tender perspective of persons who carried a truth greater than themselves and dared to share it, to allow it to be spread to new believers and then to new generations. Taking the time for each word to find its home in heart is what Thomas experienced first hand. And now, in a world gripped by 21st century sensibilities and issues, enraptured by the concepts of scientific data and well-being, buried in a cacophony of media, the stories, the words, speak again. In the midst of doubt and questioning, hearing and listening opens the door to transformative love. There is no doubt, then, why this Sunday is designated Divine Mercy Sunday.