Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: Second Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Every resurrection appearance of Jesus is characterised by two quite particular features: the disciples initially do not recognise Jesus; and Jesus does something to demonstrate his bodily presence. So, when Jesus appears to Mary Magdala, she initially thinks he’s the gardener, and tells her not to cling to him; the two disciples heading to Emmaus do not recognise him until the breaking of the bread in the evening; the first appearance to the eleven involves both incredulity on the part of the apostles and Jesus asking for something to eat; and on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples do not initially recognise the man on the shore cooking them breakfast.
These same two characteristics of the appearances of the risen Jesus – incredulity and bodily presence – are present in their most dramatic form in today’s gospel account. In the case of Thomas, we hear of someone who has serious doubts about Jesus’ resurrection; he simply can’t believe it on the word of his friends. But then when Jesus does appear to Thomas, we have Jesus getting Thomas to thrust his hand right into the very wounds of his crucifixion. It’s as if Jesus wanted to drive home to Thomas, and the others, what he had said and offered to them on the night before he died: “This is my body.”
There is something profoundly Eucharistic about the resurrection of Jesus. It is only in the bodily presence of Jesus that his resurrection is made real; it is his bodily presence that is recognised and accepted by those who love him. What he offered as food and drink at the Last Supper, he then offered in his flesh and blood on the cross, so that he could offer his real presence in his resurrection. “This is my body. Believe.”
Perhaps this – more than anything else – is what makes this Easter, and this time of isolation, so strange and disconcerting. We are separated from the Real Presence of the Lord. I do not mean this only in the sense of the hunger you have for the precious gift of Holy Communion. There is also the hunger we are experiencing from our loss of bodily presence to one another in charity. And perhaps even more deeply felt is the hunger for that communion of peace only the risen Lord can give.
Yet, note that it is the risen Jesus who comes into the presence of his people. It is he who enters through the locked door, to seek us out. In our isolation, Jesus hungers to be with us; and no lockdown or shut doors will stop him from being among us.
So, as we go through this time of hunger, do not lose heart in the real presence of the risen Lord. He continues to come among you, to be with you, and to offer himself for you. Believe that Jesus hungers for us, who are for him his real presence in the world: we, who are the Body of Christ. “This is my Body. Believe. Peace be with you.”
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio