Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Sunday of Divine Mercy 2021

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April 07, 2021

Focusing on Divine Mercy this Sunday, Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM offers a Scriptural Reflection. This content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection April 11 2021  Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Image: By Caravaggio – [1], Public Domain,; Saint Thomas the Apostle. | MaryPages

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.


Most of us live in a world where images of world events large and small are abundantly available. Technology lets us see the internal structures of our bodies, the bottoms of the oceans, and far distant galaxies.  But this same technology can be used to present images that have been altered and edited to deceive. Obviously, none of this was part of the world in which Jesus or the early disciples lived. The ability to examine, and to see for oneself, is central to today’s Gospel.

Unlike the synoptic gospels, John’s gospel does not contain a Last Supper/Passover account. Instead, John precedes the passion and death of Jesus with a farewell address. As part of this address Jesus says, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:27-28) Later in that discourse Jesus again addresses the disciples, “You also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything.” (John 16:22-23a) In the text for this Sunday, John describes how Jesus has fulfilled what he said in that farewell address.

The gospel text is composed of two almost identical appearances of the risen Lord. Both appearances take place on the first day of the week. The disciples are gathered, the doors are locked, Jesus appears in their midst, he greets them with the greeting of peace, and he shows them the wounds of the crucifixion. The repetition of these details draws attention to the ways that these two appearances are different. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the absence of Thomas. When he is told by the others that Jesus has appeared to them, he refuses to accept their testimony, and he refuses to accept them as credible witnesses of the truth of their testimony. Even if the others have seen the risen Jesus, he will not believe unless he can touch the wounds. Thus, the second difference is that Thomas is invited by Jesus to touch the wounds of the crucifixion. Another difference is the kind of response the disciples and Thomas have to the presence of the risen Christ. In the first account, the disciples are filled with joy. In the second appearance, Thomas responds with a statement of faith in Jesus as his Lord and his God.  The last difference is in the way the appearance impacts those beyond the event itself. In the first incident, Jesus commissions the disciples to be instruments of God’s forgiveness. In the second appearance, Jesus refers those who believe, but have not had the kind of unique experience that Thomas and the disciples have been blessed to have. He calls these believers blessed.

Reflection Questions:

  1. The fact that the doors were locked where the disciples were gathered suggests to me…
  2. The disciples had gathered together and locked the door for fear of the Jews. Can you call to mind some recent ways that fear has influenced what you did or how you thought?
  3. Why would Jesus’ first greeting to the disciples be “Peace be with you?” What does that suggest to you?
  4. Imagine for a moment that you are one of the disciples in that room when Thomas arrives, and you hear the others telling him that they have seen the risen Jesus, and you hear Thomas’ response. What would you be feeling? What would you like to say or do?
  5. What do you think the week between the two appearances was like for Thomas?
  6. What does it say to you that Thomas is still with them when Jesus comes a second time?
  7. Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds–not just to look at them, but to touch them. What is the difference?
  8. People like Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, and Oscar Romero have touched the wounded of society. How does Jesus’ invitation to Thomas–to touch his wounds–resonate within you?
  9. Can you take some time to talk to God honestly about the places in your life that you experience fear, about Jesus’ invitation to touch his wounds, or about whatever arose within you from reading this gospel?

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