Second Sunday of Easter – Sister Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN

Apr 3, 2024 | Gospel Reflections

April 7, 2024

John 20: 19-31

 

The second half of today’s Gospel focuses on Thomas, commonly designated as ‘doubting’ Thomas, and it’s understandable that many of us may resist being identified with Thomas because of this designation. But I would question the designation for several reasons.

For a start, Thomas is there with the other disciples – ‘waiting’, even after the disappointment of not being present with the others when Jesus first appeared and even after the lapse of a week since that appearance. To wait for this length of time must have been difficult for him, and yet he continues to wait. No one waits for what they don’t think, or at least hope, will happen. Thomas’ ‘waiting’, therefore, seems to me to be a sign of incipient faith. Thomas is open to receive what the others received, the gift of an encounter with the risen Lord.

But was there more to it than that for Thomas? I ask this question because of his dramatic and specific statement about seeing and touching the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and side? Why this emphasis? Wouldn’t it be enough for him to see Jesus?

This question takes me back to the Thomas we met at the Last supper, a few chapters earlier in the Gospel and just over a week earlier in the chronology of events. In John 13, the evangelist replaces the traditional narrative of the institution of the Eucharist – This is my body, broken for you . . This is my blood poured out for you . . . Do this in memory of me  – with the narrative of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and his words, I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.  The disciples were horrified that Jesus would wash their feet, that Jesus would assume the role of a servant/slave. And yet he tells them that this must be their way of leading. This action of Jesus is totally consistent with his life and teaching: he spent himself for others and he taught that the seed must die if it is to bear fruit. Jesus lived self-effacing love.

Just after that action, Jesus prepares his disciples for his death (John 14: 1-6): I am going now to prepare a place for you . . .and I shall return to take you to myself . . you know the way to that place where I am going.  I’m quite sure that the apostles were confused by these words, but only Thomas had the courage to question Jesus:  Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus replied, I am the Way, the truth and the Life. Jesus seems to be saying – The way to eternal life is the way of servant love, dying to self, witnessing to God at whatever cost. We know that this is the way Jesus himself lived, and that it did cost him his life.

As we return to Thomas waiting to meet the risen Jesus, I sense that Thomas is waiting – to see Jesus, yes, but to see Jesus as the confirmation of the Way that he taught – the way of self-effacing/sacrificial love. Does this way conquer evil? Does it lead to eternal life? Is this apparent weakness in reality a strength? The Jesus whom Thomas is waiting for must bear the signs of crucifixion, since this will confirm his identity and, more importantly, authenticate his ‘Way’. The wounds of Jesus will confirm that Jesus is indeed the Way.

To me, the resurrection was primarily a moment of revelation for the disciples – the way of love at whatever cost is the only way to build the Kingdom of God (First Reading, Acts 4:32-35) – and simultaneously a moment of transformation. It was a moment when a new energy was released into the world for the building of God’s kingdom, the energy of self-effacing love, an energy that we meet in so many people both known and unknown who confront evil with the power of loving service and truth.

Each Christian is baptised into the death and resurrection of Christ. What does that mean for me as an individual? What kind of energy is released into the world through my identification with Christ? What kind of energy would I like to be released into the world through my identification with Christ? It may be helpful to have a conversation with Jesus about this.

 

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, 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.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

The Gospel of the Lord…

 

 

Meet Sister Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN

Eileen Cassidy was born and educated in Scotland, and entered with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1965. She spent most of her teaching days in tertiary education. With an interest in justice and peace, she did a sabbatical in peace studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin. On retirement from teaching (1997) she served as General Secretary to the SND Congregation for seven years, and then retrained for a ministry in spiritual accompaniment. She worked at the Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow from 2007 until June 2022. She is currently filling a gap in the role of General Secretary, while others are being trained for this ministry.