We hear in today’s scripture from the Acts of the Apostles, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.” People brought the sick to them and they were all cured. The apostles did the same work that Jesus did. The question for us is how do we continue to do the work that Jesus did?
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus entering that locked room where the disciples were. They were afraid what happened to Jesus could happen to them. The first words he speaks to them are words of peace, not once, but twice. He says to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Monday night, April 8th, young people from our parish will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. We ask the Holy Spirit to come upon them, that they may receive the spirit of wisdom and understanding – the spirit of right judgment and courage – the spirit of knowledge and reverence – the spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence. These gifts of the Holy Spirit help us to do the work that Jesus did.
In the later part of the Gospel we hear the story of Thomas, often referred to as “doubting Thomas.” I am reminded of hearing somebody say that the opposite of faith is not doubt. Doubt led Thomas to a deeper faith. We hear that faith proclaimed when he says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” What is the opposite of faith then? Fear!
Fear keeps us from reaching out to others because we are afraid of what they might think. It keeps us from forgiveness because we are afraid we might be hurt again. It keeps us from being generous because we might not have enough for ourselves. It keeps us from loving because we become vulnerable. So Jesus words to us are words of peace.
When Pope Francis addressed a gathering of journalists on March 16th, he recalled how he chose his name. He had been sitting next to Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil, “when things were looking dangerous” during the counting of votes in the conclave to elect him.
When the votes reached the two-thirds required, Pope Francis said that Hummes “embraced me and kissed me and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor.’” “And those words came to me: the poor, the poor,” Francis said, pointing at his head. “Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted.”
“Francis is also the man of peace,” he said. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.” Francis of Assisi “gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church,” the pope said. “How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.”
So, on this Sunday that has lately been identified as “Divine Mercy Sunday,” my hope for you is that you have a peace that overcomes fear and allows you to do what Jesus did.