Every gift has a responsibility in return!
It hardly seems a week since we celebrated Easter Sunday! The Scripture Readings during the week have been highlighting the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, and also linking it to Pentecost. Today we are faced with the meaning of faith, as demonstrated in doubting Thomas. Maybe we see something of ourselves in Thomas….that may not be a bad thing. Let’s come back to that a bit later!
Unlike Thomas, we have not seen, and yet we are asked and expected to believe. At least that is what it looks like on the surface. In reality, that is not so. I can get all the proof I want that Jesus is alive and well, and living in me, if I myself am alive and well, and living in him! We are living two thousand years later, Pentecost has happened, and the message of the gospel, and the person of Jesus has been debated and written about in almost every language on the globe. What signs do I want? What signs do I need? In order to answer this….let’s go deep sea diving into the Gospel for today, it will blow your mind!!!!!!
Let’s remember that this is the 4th Gospel: the Johannine community are putting together this version of the Good News in at least 100 AD. That means that the ‘living memory’ of Christ have been experienced, preached and lived by the faithful community of The Way for a couple of thousand years! The stories of Jesus have had plenty of time to be reflected upon, and understood with the Old Testament as a backdrop to this great stage of proclamation….therefore symbolism is rich and the details are carefully put together, so that we, not only as hearers of the Good News, will see the spirit of the Gospel being lived out in our times…….In all, the faces have changed, but the message remains the same. Jesus, yesterday, today and tomorrow, the alpha and omega, all time belongs to Him, and all the ages; to him be glory and power, through every age for ever. Amen.
At this stage if you can grab a copy of the New Testament, John 20:19-31, it will come in handy as we check out the jewels of its meaning.
The Gospel starts off at the evening time of Easter Sunday…so, according to the Johannine purpose, that means a new creation is underway…..The Book of Genesis Chapter 1, is the stage backdrop. We have new creations taking place all the time….thank God! Notice that the disciples were not gathered out of Joy…they were scared stiff!! Jesus stands among them, within their fears, and confounds them with the creative words, ‘Peace be with you’. Now this is not just a Biblical ways of saying…’HI, I’m back’…far from it! As the new creation begins on the first day of the week as we heard in the first line of today’s Gospel, so the Lord’s Easter Gift is a special kind of Peace; that peace which reigned before the sin of Adam! Jesus, is seen as the new Adam restoring us to that pristine time when all was at one!!! But there is something very different here……That Peace given by Jesus as Gift to His Disciples, is linked with His wounds! That couplet of Peace as a gift came about through Jesus as the Suffering servant of Isaiah, and the Christ, the Promised one, the Human Face of the Father in Jesus, can transform our agitation into joy! Just as at the beginning of time, darkness filled the Earth and its surrounds, then with the creative Word of God…God’s breath transformed the Earth from a formless void, to a place of life and growth, and a responsibility of stewardship from us. Now with this Easter Gift of Peace comes as a bi product; the responsibility for us to be ‘Christ in Mission’ with the same mandate as given to Jesus by His Father…..Namely: Go and tell my people that I love them, Go and show them that I love them, Go and gather them and bring them back to me!
Now, the next part of the Easter Gift, is an extraordinary action by Jesus. It says in the Gospel, that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven…..’ The 4th Gospel has the Giving of the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday…. But let’s look closer at this……Jesus breathes on them……No one can breathe on someone from a distance. It is a very intimate action of trust, to allow someone to be so close, let alone that they wish to do it to us! That kind of closeness presupposes a very intimate relationship with the Disciples…..That same kind of closeness when the Lord God breathed into the Nostrils of Humankind in Creation, the breath of life…..it is that same kind of breath that was breathed into Jesus at the moment of His Resurrection!
Looking at the paragraph above where I have written…Go and tell my people etc. No one can be part of that Mission without the ‘rush’ of the Holy Spirit to empower them…to empower us!!
The story gets even more complex as we move further on in the Gospel…There is someone who misses out on the action…..Thomas, was the man, this time……sometimes it is us!!!!! He would not believe what his friends had told him about their experience of the Risen Lord. It still happens to us, too. Thomas wanted absolute proof! So much so that he wanted to not only see Our Lord’s wounds, but to touch them! Thomas was making a very prophetic comment, and in fact, he was right! Let’s see what happens!
Notice in the Gospel it says that eight days later…..that is a hint that another new creation is about to take place….this time in Thomas. Thomas, most certainly represents us…..In fact new creations within God’s people are happening all the time!!!! Again, Jesus greets the disciples with the gift of Easter Peace, and then singles out Thomas, just as Jesus so often singles out us. Jesus says, ‘see put your finger here; see my hands’. Then Jesus says, ‘reach out your hand; put it into my side’. It would be safe enough to say, that after Thomas touched and saw Our Lord’s wounds in His hands, that might have been enough for him, but no, Jesus says reach out and put you hand into my side? That is a big wound!!! Could we say, a Cavity wound? Could it be the entrance, mystically into the dying and rising with Jesus? Could it be that for all of us, unless we enter into the woundedness and cavity wounds of our sisters and brothers, we will have difficulty in meeting the Risen Lord? Seeing and touching the Wounds in Our Lord’s hand are not enough! There is much to reflect on here……this is a story for all times and seasons…….it is timeless. Let’s look at the faith response of Thomas: ‘My Lord, and my God’ It says everything, doesn’t it? What more could a person say? And yet, this response has been in our hearts, minds and on our lips many times already in our lives. When we experience entering into the wounded living body of Christ today, we meet Christ! But we must underline a very important act of seeing the saving hand of God at work, and that is living our Faith! Faith is about SEEING the saving hand of God at work in ourselves, in others, in His Holy Word and Sacrament. It is full time living, not just for Sundays. Our Sunday Eucharist should be the celebration of what has happened in our faith life and the lives of others during the week. When we gather to ‘give thanks and praise’ in Sacrament, we are being nourished for the ongoing Mission and from the Mission at hand. We are empowered by the Spirit to be Christ to each other; it is that ‘rush ‘of the Spirit that I was talking about earlier in this realhomilie….Let’s have a look at some of the surrounding aspects of faith…..
Faith requires a generous dose of humility, and a large amount of common sense. Every time I buy a car, every time I go to Hospital for an operation, every time I board a Jet, I continue to make acts of faith in someone or in something. Without faith, I would end up doing nothing! No one would get married if they didn’t have faith in themselves, and in each other, through the love that binds them, no one would commit themselves to a life of partnership and ministry.
Faith will always be accompanied by doubt. If there were certainty, there would be no need to have faith. Jesus compares faith to a tiny grain of mustard seed, that continues to germinate and grow, and ends up as a large tree. Just as the Mustard seed needs, moisture, nutrients, and sunlight, to bring it to fullness of life; our faith needs nourishment, light and the fine mist of life-giving love to bring it to fullness. Remember the story in the Gospel about the man being lowered down through the roof by his friends, so that Jesus could heal the sick person? Jesus said, “seeing THEIR faith” he healed the man.
The faith of the community can be so contagious; this was felt during the Easter Ceremonies here at The Benedictine Abbey, Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia, where my sister and I were part of the Easter Ceremonies; it is seen and experienced within the most profound and ‘user friendly’ Liturgies when local people and holiday makers gathered with the Nuns at the Abbey, and together, in the name of Christ, we shared ‘life’ and Eucharist within the Easter Triduum. It has happened in lots of Parishes enable real Liturgy to happen, instead of it being some Holy Performance by the Choir together with cold and meticulous rubrics, that touch nobody’s Heart and Soul……just the residue of some fuzzy, religious feelings that could be received at the Sydney Opera House. Through the experience of “faith” we get “insight”, that is, the God-given grace to see within life-situations, Religious Communities, random gatherings of people, Liturgies, and prayerful stillness, the saving hand of God at work and not forgetting the walking wounded in our midst, ‘the poor of the Lord.’
Finally, like Thomas, we are all called to enter into the brokenness of Christ in His people today. When we dare to enter into the wounds of God’s people, it is then we can say not only from our hearts, but from every fiber in our being: “My Lord and My God!” We are truly within the holiness of life when this happens.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/