Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Mercy)
Acts 4:42-47, Psalm 118, Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Jesus’ love brings him to come to them.
Jesus’ love brings him to come to them.
Jesus’ love brings him to come to us.
In his love Jesus comes to us here and now.
The Easter celebration is not a history lesson about something over and done that we remember. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus because like Thomas, we struggle to believe and Jesus invites us to overcome our hesitation, doubt, fear – the wrappings – the stuff – that is holdings back from entering into sharing the new life he is offering us.
Being a twin I have always felt drawn to Thomas and all the more because this passage from the gospel account of Saint John speaks to the reality of so many people who want to believe and are upset with themselves because they cannot measure up to living the faith they have believed is expected of them. Enter Jesus not waiting for Thomas to work it all out – not expecting Thomas to be perfect – but coming to him to help him believe. Faith is not getting all the horror, the messiness, the pain, the imperfection out of the way. Quite the opposite Jesus says touch the wounds.
And the gospel goes on, blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
In this masterfully written book, Touch the Wounds, Father Tomas Halik (a Czech philosopher and theologian) calls upon Christians to touch the wounds of the world and to rediscover their own faith by loving and healing their neighbors. Jesus did not hold on to bitterness or anger after being rejected, betrayed, brutalized and abandoned, he loved with more than a warm fuzzy kind of affection. He loved powerfully, faithfully, generously and untiringly before and after hanging on the cross.
So Peter, in his letter reminds us, God gives new birth into living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Imperfect Peter disentangles from guilt and shame and being stuck in his regret for having denied Jesus and fulfills his singular role to help build up the church and encourage his contemporaries in living a bold faith.
The Acts of the Apostles describes not a collection of people living a solitary faith, but rather “all who believed together and had everything in common”. Enduring faith needs others who believe that we may help one another to remain faithful. Monastic living is not hermits who all have the same address and not simply a life to sequester themselves, living apart in each monastery. We live monastic life as a part of the larger church with a particular emphasis, it is a gift to the larger church to help all live faith more deeply.
Jesus emboldens Thomas and all of us to live our faith not recklessly, but consciously and deliberately, always giving honor to God and, hopefully, always giving encouragement to one another.
Twins know they were not brought into existence to be each other. The contemporary church needs people living different roles in different ways in order to become the vibrant Body of Christ accomplishing Jesus’ mission of transforming the world. Father Stan offering us a teaching last night from Ecuador, spoke of the recognition in the early days of monastic life that murmuring and division must be resisted. Reconciling love is not about pretending there are no differences, there are no disappointments, there are no struggles, there are no wounds – but facing the truth, in Christ, we love as Jesus did, to bring about a new reality. A scar reminds us that a wound, surgery, invasion took place. Healing has occurred. We acknowledge what has been overcome to take up the present possibility for goodness, right, truth and grace.
Perhaps this Sunday of God’s Mercy inaugurated by Pope John Paul II can afford us an awareness of the responsibility and privilege we have to walk by faith – not simply in some intense personal way, but in such a way that we help one another beyond what weakens, threatens or stifles faith.
Celebrating this Second Sunday of Easter we pray in gratitude for the gift of faith and for all those who are helping us become better at believing and better at encouraging each other to believe.