Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. Fabian Villalobos

"It is the Lord!”

In the immediate Sundays after Easter, the Gospels that we hear, preach, and share, are those of the resurrection of the Lord. The joyful celebration of Easter continues for seven Sundays until Pentecost.

This Gospel begins with a clear mention that the resurrected Lord has appeared before to his disciples, “Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.” Again” and “in this way,” proves to us that He manifested himself in previous occasions.

The author mentions seven disciples being together when Peter decides to go fishing. The disciples go with Peter; however, they did not catch any fish. Seven men, some of them experienced fishermen, fishing all night long, and yet, they caught nothing.

Throughout this long night, the disciples are aware their net remains empty, and yet “after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach” asking for fish, something they do not have, something he is going to provide them with. As we can learn from many other Gospel stories, Jesus asks first, and then later, he tells us what we need to do. He respects our freedom, while he requires our cooperation. “He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." With Jesus present, the disciples pass from nothing in their net, to a net full of 153 large fish. This is the same in our lives; Jesus has the capacity to transform our nothing, our own empty nets, into the fullness of God’s grace.

At this part of the Gospel story, we also confirm that in order to recognize the resurrected Lord, the disciples need to have a personal and loving relationship with Jesus. “That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” The beloved disciple has the capacity to recognize the Lord, and this is not the first time that the beloved identifies Jesus’ presence. This is a clear reminder that in order for us to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives, we need to truly love him.

Peter’s reaction reflects his natural desire to hide the human nakedness from God. “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.” He remains there until Jesus tells them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." At Jesus’ command, Peter receives the restoration of his dignity.

The resurrected Lord invites his friends, the disciples, to eat with him. He provides them food Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord.” This meal is the memorial of another meal; they understand who this person is; and as happened in the Last Supper, “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” Jesus, the suffering Messiah, is now the Resurrected Lord who shows himself in the breaking of the bread, “This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”

This story of the Gospel confirms the presence of the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread that we celebrate each Sunday. We like the disciples know, "It is the Lord!” Even if we don’t understand how, or dare not to ask Him questions, we recognize also, "It is the Lord!” Let us enjoy His presence and His love each and every day of our lives.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia. Alleluia.

The Rev. Fabian Villalobos
Rector, Christ Church, Dallas

Second Sunday of Easter: John 2-:19-31

The Gospel lesson today records two occasions on which the risen Jesus appears to his disciples. The first on the evening of the Lord’s resurrection (that is, Easter Day), and the second a week later (that is, today). On both occasions the disciples are gathered behind locked doors out of fear. Both times Jesus appears to them, he speaks a word of peace. Both times the disciples come to a joyful recognition of the Lord.

What’s different is that Thomas is absent the first time Jesus comes.

The others tell him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25). To which Thomas infamously responds, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” The exclamation has earned him (fairly or unfairly) the moniker of “doubting Thomas.” But coming from Thomas, it seems pretty characteristic. Not so much because it expresses doubt, but because it’s a bit impetuous. Thomas, after all, is the one who loudly declared to the others, “Let us also go [with Jesus to Jerusalem], that we may die with him” (11:16)—but was not there when Jesus died. Maybe a better name for Thomas would be Hasty or Headstrong.

Notice, too, that what the disciples tell Thomas echoes what Mary Magdalene (the first to see the risen Jesus) told them on Easter morning: “I have seen the Lord” (20:18). Mary is a faithful witness—just like her Lord (see Revelation 1:4)—telling the disciples what the Lord Jesus told her. But notice that they do not believe until the Lord reveals himself to them. Even after Mary’s testimony, they are still full of fear. So Thomas isn’t really all that different from the other disciples. He, too, refuses to believe their testimony until he sees what they have seen. Thomas does go further in his insistence on putting his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in the pierced side (v. 25). But he is just like the others in withholding belief until the risen Jesus stands before him.

Jesus reveals himself to Thomas in the same way as to the other disciples: speaking peace (20:19, 26) and showing his wounds (vv. 20, 27). The risen Lord even commands Thomas to do what he (Thomas) had demanded:  “Put your finger here … put [your hand] in my side,” adding, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27). And Thomas responds with a spontaneous and joyful cry of recognition: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).

Did you notice what the text does not say? It does not say that Thomas actually put his hand in the Lord’s side. Instead, the text moves immediately from the Lord’s words to Thomas’ cry of faith. This gap, I think, is important. Thomas believes because he has seen the Lord. That is enough. Jesus humbly offers his wounds for Thomas’ touch, but one look is enough for Thomas to know his Lord. Thomas believes because he has encountered the Lord.

Here is the good news for us: we have not seen the risen Jesus in the flesh (like the disciples did), but we can still encounter him. And this is the heart of the Christian life, encountering the risen Lord Jesus. We have not seen him, but the Lord Jesus still gives himself to us. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, “he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist.”

This Eastertide, may our Lord renew his encounter with you, and may you respond with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

The Rev. Chris Yoder is the curate for traditional worship service and young adult formation at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas.

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.