Sermon preached from Emmaus Hermitage, Lalor Park by Revd. Br Simeon efo
Sunday 23rd April 2017:
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER. YR A.
Gospel: John 20: 19-31
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he said this he breathed upon them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . .”
Jesus 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.”
A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the great-ness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him. The Franciscan fell on his face, overcome with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty. The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family. The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, “So, have you thought about where to send him to school?”
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
God’s story is our story. We have been blessed with the Bible, and with God’s story of his interaction with his beloved creation. The stories we read in the gospels are our story.
In Holy Week, for year A of the Lectionary, we had from Monday to Friday John’s Gospel readings, to help us step into God’s story as we read each day’s reading
in John’s Gospel.
Now we have come to the Easter season and we walk in the most astonishing and delightful part of the story of God’s dealings with his people. So, let us again seek to step into this story. What might Jesus have to say to us?
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (for all three years of the Lectionary cycle) is Act 2 of John’s Easter drama.
Scene 1 takes place on Easter night. The terrified disciples are huddled together, realising that they are marked men because of their association with the criminal Jesus.
The Risen Jesus appears in their midst with his greeting of “peace.” John clearly has the Genesis story in mind when the evangelist describes Jesus as “breathing” the Holy Spirit on his disciples.
Just as God created man and woman by breathing life into them (Genesis 2: 7), the Risen Christ re-creates humankind by breathing the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the eleven.
In scene 2, the disciples excitedly tell the just-returned Thomas of what they had seen. Thomas responds to the news with understandable scepticism. Thomas had expected the cross (see John 11: 16 and 14: 5) – and no more.
The climactic third scene takes place one week later, with Jesus’ second appearance to the assembled community – this time with Thomas present. He invites Thomas to examine his wounds and to “believe.” Christ’s blessing in response to Thomas’ profession of faith exalts the faith of every Christian of every age who “believes without seeing”; all Christians who embrace the Spirit of the Risen One possess a faith that is in no way different less than that of the first disciples. The power of the Resurrection transcends time and place.
We trace our roots as parish and faith communities to Easter night when Jesus “breathed” his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples, transforming them into the new Church.
The “peace” that Christ gives his new Church is not a passive sense of good feeling or the mere absence of conflict. Christ’s peace is hard work: the peace of the Easter Christ is to honour one another as children of the same Father in heaven; the peace of the Easter Christ seeks to build bridges and find solutions rather than assigning blame or extracting punishment; the peace of Christ is centred in relationships that are just, ethical and moral.
The “peace” that the Risen Christ breathes into us at Easter shows us a way out of those tombs in which we bury ourselves; the forgiveness he extends enables us to get beyond the facades we create and the rationalisations we devise to justify them.
Jesus’ entrusting to the disciples the work of forgiveness is what it means to be the church: to accept one another, to affirm one another, to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ. What brought the apostles and first Christians together as a community – unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, reconciliation and healing – no less powerfully binds us to one another as the Church of today.
While today’s Gospel has been ready by the Church as Jesus’ instituting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the whole Christian community possesses the power to “forgive” and “retain,” and the grace to “bind” and “loosen.” The Risen Christ gives to every one of us the “power,” the “authority,” the grace to forgive and to bind one another in love.
All of us, at one time or another, experience the doubt and scepticism of Thomas: while we have heard the good news of Jesus’ empty tomb, all of our fears, problems and sorrows prevent us from realising it in our own lives. In raising his beloved Son from the dead, God also raises our spirits to the realisation of the totality and limitlessness of his love for us.
We all have scars from our own Good Fridays that remain long after our own experiences of resurrection. Our “nail marks” remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and suffering are transformed into healing and peace in the love of God we experience from others and that we extend them.
- image attribution: By Caravaggio – http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg, Public Domain, Link