Homilies & Official Statements
Second Sunday of Easter – [A]
23rd. April 2017
Gospel: John 20:19-31
In the evening of the same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you,”
and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” After saying this he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, “We have seen the Lord,” he answered, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. “Peace be with you” he said, Then he spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him: “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.” There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing this you may have life through his name.
Today’s gospel story is one which we know quite well, since it deals with the well known but misunderstood person that we call doubting Thomas. In fact in the story as we have it Thomas is not a doubter, he is a model of faith who makes the most explicit act of faith in the Gospels, “My Lord and my God”. In fact there is also in this story a powerful lesson for us who listen to so many people making claims to be modern day messiahs.
The story relates two of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection. At the first of these Thomas is not present. When he returns the disciples tell him very excitedly “We have seen the Lord”. Thomas’ reply over the centuries has given him the nickname of the doubter, but Thomas was doing something that we must all do. Thomas was ensuring that he put his trust in the correct person. He tells his co-disciples “Unless I can see the holes in his hand and side, I will not believe.” Thomas was in fact telling the other disciples, “I will only believe in the one who suffered for me”
The mark of true leadership is always the ability to suffer for those whom one leads. In fact more than once in the gospels, we are told that the one who is not a true leader flees when he sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep to safe himself. The true leader is one who is willing to risk his/her life, in fact is willing to lose his/her life for those he/she leads.
In his second appearance, Jesus tells Thomas, don’t be afraid it is indeed I, here are my wounds, here are my marks of true leadership. Thomas then replies “My Lord and My God” In other words I accept you as my leader, I will follow you.
As I said last week, the Gospel stories repeat themselves, in every age, and culture.
People followed Martin Luther King, not simply because of his brilliant and profound oratory but also because of the times in jail, and the water hoses and the dogs. They followed Nelson Mandela for the same reasons, as they followed Mgr. Romero in El Salvador. These men were all leaders after the example of Jesus, they were leaders who could show “the holes made by the nails and the spear.” Their lives are models of self-sacrifice for others.
No leader is worthy of being followed unless she/he is willing to risk all for those who follow. No leader is worthy of being followed unless he/she can say, “bring your finger, put it into the holes made by the nails, bring your hand put it into my side”. To put a hand or a finger into an open wound is to cause more pain. True leaders are always willing to undergo more pain for the sake of those who follow.
What a need we have today of true leaders !! What a need we have to be sensible and only follow those who are worthy of being followed.
As we celebrate today, let us thank God for the true leaders that we have known, the famous ones like Ghandi and Romero and Mandela, but also let us remember the not so famous ones, parents, and uncles and aunts. Through them so many graces have come to us. Let us ask for the grace to sacrifice for others, this is how true leaders live.
All powerful and ever-loving God, Your Son Jesus taught us the meaning of true leadership when he suffered for us his disciples. His suffering was a proof of the love which he had for his followers. Help us who seek to imitate him to so love those of whom we hold charge to be willing as Jesus did to bear wounds for those whom we lead. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, our mother who heart was pierced by a sword and your Son Jesus. Amen