He is back from death to reclaim what is his
Jesus came, ultimately, not just to live for 33 years in one region. He came to live forever, everywhere.
This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), the Church emphasizes that Jesus Christ is still alive — and why.
The cross was at the center of Jesus’ life — before and after the crucifixion.
We know from John 3:16 why Jesus came: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Peter explained how this works: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
Sunday’s Gospel shows that this remains true for the Risen Christ.
“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.”
It is significant that Jesus showed his wounds to all the apostles, even before repeating the process for Thomas.
Jesus was showing them that it was really him, their crucified Lord, who paid a price for them and was returning to reclaim what was his.
Jesus died to save us, then rose to show us where we can find that salvation.
What he said next is a central linchpin of Christ’s whole life.
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” he told the Apostles. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Jesus instituted each of the sacraments before his Passion and death — for instance, Baptism in the Jordan River, Confirmation when he promised the Holy Spirit, and the Eucharist and Priesthood at the Last Supper.
But he saved one sacrament for after he rose: The sacrament of Confession, penance and reconciliation.
That means his whole life led to this moment when he gives his apostles the power to dispense the forgiveness he came to earth to offer.
By giving the Church this gift, he put his life’s mission in the Church’s hands.
The life of Christ continues in the Church. The first Christians knew this very well.
In the Second Reading for Sunday, John describes an encounter he had with the Risen Jesus.
“When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead,” he writes.
Jesus says to him, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.”
His very identity is “the one who lives.” He lives in his Church.
As the first reading describes it, “Believers in the Lord … even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.”
They so identified the living Jesus with the Church that they treated the Church as they did Christ.
To them, Jesus’ life right now was just as significant as his life before the crucifixion.
Jesus is not less accessible to us now than he was during his years living in Palestine. He is more accessible to us.
He stressed this over and over again after his resurrection:
- After meeting two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus breaks bread and then literally disappears, staying only in the Eucharist.
- In several resurrection appearances, including his last words before ascending into heaven, he commands the apostles to baptize people into his life.
- And in today’s Gospel, he makes it clear that his forgiveness will reach us through the Church.
In his sacraments, Jesus lives among us still.
There in his sacraments, Jesus is reaching out his wounded hand to us also.
Holy Week teaches us that Jesus understands our pain and our sorrow. He took all the hateful, hurtful things we do or suffer onto himself.
Easter Week teaches us that Jesus wants to offer us more than pain and sorrow. He burns all of that suffering in the furnace of his love and on Divine Mercy Sunday, offers his heart in its place.