In today’s gospel account, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples both on Easter night and a week later. He breathes on them, just as God breathed life into Adam in Genesis. Jesus gives the disciples new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is given to them so that they might be instruments of God’s mercy. Just as they will make him present in the breaking of the bread, so too he shares with them the power to forgive or retain sin.
Easter is a time for deepening our relationship with Jesus. What better way to do that than being forgiven and healed of our sins. Too often distance and pain creep into relationships that lack honesty and forgiveness. Jesus knows that. The Council of Trent in 1551 taught that it was this gospel moment in John 20 in which the Lord established the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we confess our sins to a priest, who takes the place of Jesus, we are healed and reconciled, both to the Lord and to others.
The encounter between Thomas and Jesus the following week assures us that we need not fear judgment of condemnation when we stand before Jesus. Instead, as with Thomas, Jesus meets us where we are, as he calls forth from us faith and trust in him.
When we decide to live for Jesus, we do so as members of his Church, for God’s desire is that we be a community united in Christ. In the first line of today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke writes of the four essential priorities of the first Christians: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”
Centuries later, these are still the foundations for faithful life as members of the Church. We ought to know our faith as passed down to us from the apostles and their successors. We need to be committed to each other as a community, particularly in caring for those who are in need. We need to have the Eucharist, “the breaking of the bread,” at the heart of our life and worship, and, finally, we need to be people of prayer, both individually and as a community.
Jesus has to be the center of each of our individual lives and of our community life as his Church. The Christian life is not to be lived alone. Instead we commit ourselves to spending time to be with the Lord as a community in prayer and to work together to continue his work. Jesus calls us to be his witnesses, and by doing that to bring others to him.
We are blessed. We have not seen him, but we love him. And in loving him, we trust him. And in trusting him, we open ourselves to all that he wants to give us, especially his mercy.