Gospel reflection for April 11, 2021, Second Sunday of Easter

On the evening of that great Easter Day Jesus appeared to his disciples in the room where they were staying. After a long day of listening to the testimony of Mary Magdalene, Peter, the beloved disciple, and the others, the disciples are no doubt experiencing a heightened state of emotions. Their confusion and uncertainty turn quickly to awe and wonder as Jesus miraculously appears in their midst.

Many different thoughts must have run through their minds and certainly more questions than answers as Jesus appeared to them. This, they quickly realized, was no illusion or phantasm. They all saw him there. He spoke to them and they all heard him say the same thing. One can only imagine what the conversation among the disciples was after Jesus left them.

Their experience with Jesus was immediately and permanently transformative for them. He “breathed on them” and sent the Holy Spirit upon them. They are now no longer simple disciples of a great master, they have themselves become apostles. Their time with him was not just for them to learn from the Master and to serve him alone. They were being prepared to themselves become teachers and mentors to others. Yes, they will continue to serve Jesus, but now in and through their service to others for the sake of the kingdom he preached to them. From now on others will be following them, listening and learning from them, and looking to them to show them the way to Jesus. Most importantly they will now do what they saw and heard Jesus do countless times during his ministry: to forgive the sins of others.

Jesus’s Death on the Cross – as he had spoken of long before his death in a conversation with Nicodemus – was the sign of God’s love for the world and his desire to reconcile all creation to himself. Now, through the power of the apostles – a power which they will hand-on to the Church even yet today – sins are forgiven, and the reconciliation between God and world becomes a present reality.

While they are not yet empowered to go to the ends of the earth – that will come to them soon enough – they are now able to see more clearly what has been happening in their lives during their time with Jesus.

We have a rather encapsulated view of the ministry of Jesus. Over the centuries scholars have debated the reasons why some events appear in only one Gospel, or perhaps in two, but that few appear in all four. Sometimes the locations for different miracles or teachings of Jesus are variant from one Gospel to another. Yet, we fail to remember that throughout the period of his ministry Jesus was often on the move, and perhaps, like any other itinerant preacher, delivered similar sermons in multiple locations. It is unlikely that Jesus only said something once.

This leads the evangelist to point out that he had to carefully choose what was so essential as to hand on to us as he says at the end of chapter 20: “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."

In keeping with the overall theme of his Gospel account John emphasizes yet again the connection between belief in Jesus Christ and eternal life. The mission of Jesus, the message of the Gospel, and the central reason for discipleship is so that we can share in this eternal life, won for us through the great Paschal events – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the fourth Gospel this amounts to the “glorification” of Jesus – that he has been raised on the Cross as the culmination of his mission leading us all to follow him to eternal life.

Scripture cannot contain the wonders of Jesus Christ and the promise of the world to come as words are inadequate to express the awe of the experience of God in our midst. Like the early Church, we continue to rely on the faith and testimony of others – our sacred tradition and the stories of the life of the church through the ages – to continually point us in faith to Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, and glorified in eternal life, preparing a place for us for all eternity.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.