We hear this weekend of Jesus making himself present to his frightened followers and commissioning them now as apostles. We do not see the risen Jesus visible among us as we celebrate the Eucharist together, but we believe in his word that he is indeed here, where disciples gather in his name. His words to Thomas in our Gospel reading, ‘Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe’, apply to us.
The Easter liturgy highlights dramatically the central events of our Christian faith. As it demonstrates that Jesus should occupy the most important place in our life, it can also help to put other things into perspective. The reading from Acts suggests that the proper attitude towards property may be one of detachment, rather that attachment, that possessions should not become the principal value in our lives as disciples of Jesus.
The Gospel according to John ends with the final encounter between Jesus and his disciples. However, it is not the end of the story. During his ministry, Jesus is the sole actor: his followers have no share in his mission, unlike the picture given in the Synoptic accounts. But with the resurrection and Jesus being glorified, that situation changes, and the disciples are now sent out as apostles to continue not only Jesus’ mission, but his very presence. That is why we can speak of the Church as the sacrament of Christ’s presence in the world. This is not to be simply a human endeavour: The Holy Spirit is given to them for this purpose, and the Easter event is complete. Although the disciples are filled with joy and peace at the presence of the risen Jesus, they are not to stay locked safely away, but to proclaim the Gospel: those who accept it will have their sins forgiven when they are baptised. Hence the idea of the Christian as a missionary disciple.
The Gospel ends with the Johannine Beatitude, which applies to all those who come to believe without visible proof: the evangelist is referring to people like ourselves.
Canon Francis Brown