Second Sunday of Easter • Year A

Francis J. Caponi, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Readings
Acts 2:42-47
Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Pt 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Jesus is dead. The apostles ran, and now hide in a locked room. Thomas can’t take it anymore. They’ve been cooped up for days, no one’s had a bath or a good night’s sleep, everyone keeps rehashing what happened, going over it again and again: “How could we abandon our friend? How could we do it? What do we do now?” Thomas finally snaps. He stands up, gives the other ten a sharp look and says, “I have had enough of all of you. I am out of here!” He turns the lock, pulls the door, and walks out into the world.

For the first time in days, he strolls down the street, feels the sun, says hello to some folks in the marketplace. His blood gets flowing, he stops at a well and splashes water on his face, he has a hot meal. He sees that life goes on. He has the great satisfaction of stretching his legs, and the greater satisfaction of knowing that he alone had the guts to leave the dreary safety of the apostles’ hiding place. He feels great.

And when he gets back, ready to answer breathless questions about where he went, ready to hear some applause, this is what greets him instead: “You just missed Jesus.”

Bad timing: It’s not the worst thing that can happen to you, but it’s frustrating. Most of us have had the experience of being a little bit late for something important or exciting or beautiful. It’s disappointing; sometimes, it’s aggravating. “You’ll never guess who we just saw!” “You just missed the most incredible play of the game!” “If you got here just two minutes earlier…”

Thomas looks around. Peter is staring off into space, as if he’s a million miles away. John and Matthew and Jude are laughing the way they do when they’ve had too much wine. Philip

looks like he’s been crying. Andrew, with a slight smirk on his face, rushes up and says, “Thomas, you just missed Jesus. He forgave us for abandoning him! He breathed the Holy Spirit on us! It was the most amazing thing that ever happened!”

Perhaps, when Thomas declares, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” it’s more out of anger and frustration than outright disbelief. He has gone from feeling brave and happy to being told that he missed his chance to meet the risen Lord. The regret is too great, the disappointment too intense. Who among us can not sympathize with Thomas and his world-class case of bad timing?

During the week that follows, Thomas feels at a real disadvantage. The other apostles do nothing but talk about Jesus’ appearance, trying to make sense of it, wondering if it will happen again. Simon the Zealot, trying to make Thomas feel better, says, “Don’t worry Thomas. I’m sure the Lord will appear again. You’ll get your chance to see him” But Thomas isn’t consoled. Yes, Jesus may appear again, but that won’t change the fact that the first time the risen Lord appeared, he missed him. Thomas already sees where this is headed.

For as long as men and women remember Jesus Christ, the story will be told the same way: “The apostles were in the locked room, terrified. They had no hope, no future. Then Jesus walked right through the door and spoke to them, and gave them his peace, and filled them with his Spirit. He was no longer dead, he was alive! The apostles were overjoyed! Oh, by the way – Thomas was out at the time.”

But that is not our story. Jesus says to Thomas and to us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jesus is clear: the apostles were blessed, and so are we; they were given great gifts, and so are we; they received the Lord’s Spirit, and so do we.

We do not see the risen Lord in the way they did, but we are just as blessed, and just as challenged. The Christ who walked through that locked door gives us his body, blood, soul, and divinity at this Mass. The Christ who spoke the words “Peace be with you” proclaims the same good news in these Scriptures. The Christ who breathed the Holy Spirit on the apostles floods our hearts with his Spirit, giving us the gift of faith by which our souls are saved. The Christ who appeared to the defeated and desperate apostles appears to us every single days of our lives in the poor, the homeless, the grief-stricken, the addicted, the desperate, and the lost. The Christ who sent the apostles out to proclaim his victory over sin and death sends us out to do exactly the same, that through our witness the Lord may add to the number of those who are being saved. We see all this because we believe.

We are not Thomas. We have not just missed Christ. He is here today, in our hearts and in this church. He courses through our veins and holds these bricks together, he draws the earth around the sun and carries the rivers and seas upon his back, he buds forth in every field and sings out in the cries of the newborn washed in the waters of this font. He sets his foot on every road, leaves no wild flower without its share of his own beauty, weeps with those who weep, mourns with those who mourn, rages with those who cry out against the brutal ways of man.

He knits us together in our mothers’ wombs and stands beyond the abyss of death and cries out “Peace!” and promises to carry us to safety. How could this not be so? He through whom the world was made was dead and now is raised for us. What could exist that Christ does not hold up? Where could we be that he is not?

We have not just missed Christ. It is not possible to accidentally miss Christ, as a result of bad timing or bad luck. We have to work at it. It takes effort not to see Jesus, not to taste him, not to hear his call. The question is not, “Where can Christ be found?” The question is, “Where can Christ not be found?” How can the Christ who burst forth from the sealed tomb and walked through the locked door and ascended into heaven ever be missing or missed?

We see, because we believe, that nothing keeps him out, that no corner of this vast universe finds him absent, that no corner of our sinful hearts is safe from his gracious offer of mercy. We haven’t missed a thing. Because we believe, we can see the glorious Lord everywhere we turn our eyes.