First Reading: Acts 2.42-47
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1.3-9
Gospel: John 20.19-31
It is in the light of this ongoing Pandemic which has invaded our lives, our thoughts and our deepest fears that I share my reflections on the readings on this 2nd Sunday of Easter.
As we get comfortable with each other in this gathering space, I focus for a minute on a few of the guiding characteristics of the early Church as mentioned in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
A “listening” church – the church listened to what was taught – not by looking backward but by looking forward. We who are the church – how do we develop listening hearts so as to hear each other especially in light of social distancing and lockdown. We are in some ways like those first disciples.
A church of “companionship” – that is having the quality of “togetherness”. How do we accompany each other in this time of lockdown and social distancing? Perhaps it will be through technology – sharing ourselves in our written words and faces smiling back and forth over screens.
A “worshipping” Church – how do we worship right now? We are only beginning to discover new ways of coming together. My friend William Barclay maintains that God is not ‘solitary’… “Things happen when we come together, allowing God’s Spirit to move among us”.
Our responses may well be in sharing our Easter experience of “through him, and with him, and in him”.
Like most of you I watched the Triduum services on a screen but I did not know how to participate in them. It felt as if I was outside looking in – rather than being a part of something. Did Easter really happen? It didn’t feel like it. I asked God to still my doubts and fears and wondered how many others were feeling the same. Did they too seem to struggle with feelings of betrayal and abandonment just as Jesus had on the Cross? Where was the resurrection?
A couple of days ago I was asked to share this reflection with you. I think I would have preferred to share on the Emmaus story, but God has given me Thomas – doubting Thomas. As I read the full reading and sat quietly with it for a while I realized that I had not experienced Easter in the way that I wanted to and that I had not “been” with all of you. I wondered if my name was now Thomasette. It is only now as I share with you that I believe I might be entering into Easter – along with Thomas.
I recognise the richness of today’s Gospel – it is about the tenderness of God and the love between Jesus and Thomas. John Shea describes that 1st st Easter: “The coming of Christ into their midst – [the disciples’] is becoming a “regular” event. When they gather – [Jesus] gathers with them. Once again, he is not there physically because the doors are locked. He is in the midst of the disciples, emerging from within… within, as the communication of peace and the presence of joy. This time Thomas is present. More importantly, Thomas is with the other disciples. He is part of the community, and it is as part of the community that he will experience the risen Lord.” Then Thomas is invited into the wounds of Jesus. Shea continues: “Jesus is encouraging Thomas to reach for the divine life that flows through him.” It seems to me that this is what we are also being invited to do and be in our world today.
“The message… is that believing is a matter of realizing the spiritual truth… it is in the community of believers enlivened by the presence of the risen Christ that Thomas comes to know Jesus at a level that eluded him when he knew Jesus in the flesh.”
The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not immediately recognize Jesus, they had to let go of the old image of Jesus before death in order to recognize the new image of the Risen Christ.
Not just them and not just back then. Perhaps all of us in this present time are letting go of old habits and ways of seeing in order to be able to realise the richness of God’s love in our present time.
I believe that we come together in an intentional space so as to share our experiences of God with each other; as you allow me to ‘break open the Word’ with you – so that we can all be nourished by it together. I believe at this moment we all share a space in God’s heart.
Like Thomas we too are invited to enter into the deep flow of love that is the presence of Christ – no matter the lockdowns and isolation experienced as a result of the pandemic. We will and do experience the Risen Jesus as our Lord, as our God.
I am grateful to be able to share my thoughts with you – I can see many of your faces before me – perhaps because we carry each other in our hearts. This weekend is all about community, about how we come together.
We are invited, once again, to gather together in the presence of God, in the heart of our Crucified and Risen Saviour.
I am reminded of Marty Haugen’s beautiful hymn: We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate for you are with us here; And we believe that we will see you when you come, in your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.
Together we experience and live our beliefs.
As we leave to return to our rooms, our families, our lives, let us bless each other in this coming week – in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.