Second Sunday of Easter Homily 28 April 2019
Rev 1:9-11A, 12-13, 17-19
One of my favorite singers is Leonard Cohen, and my favorite song of his is “Anthem.” It has very profound words, “Ring the bells that still can ring/forget your perfect offering/there is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in/that’s how the light gets in.”
A friend of mine had a particularly precious piece of pottery, not so much in monetary terms, but in sentiment terms. It had been bequeathed to her by her mother, and one day, she let it fall, and it broke into pieces. She tried to mend it, but there were many small pieces, and it just didn’t work. But rather than throw it out, she used it as a candleholder. To her amazement, the places where the bits were missing allowed the light to escape and cast beautiful shadows on the wall. She said she learned a valuable lesson-sometimes through our wounds, the light shines brightest.
“There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.” On this, the second Sunday of Easter, I’d like to reflect on three cracks where the light gets in: the crack of absence, the crack of denial, and the crack of fear.
So firstly, the crack of absence. I’m always struck by the fact that in the Gospel, when the risen Lord appears to the disciples, Thomas was not there. He was absent. Where was he? Maybe he left because he had a disagreement with his gathered friends. Maybe, he couldn’t stand the atmosphere of fear in the room. Maybe he just needed to get away and be by himself and think things through. One way or the other, he wasn’t there. He was absent. And in his absence, he missed the appearance of the Easter Jesus. It’s interesting that he returns but is skeptical about their newfound enthusiasm. “I won’t believe,” he says, “unless I can see and touch the wounds.” I’ve been asked what the difference between a diocesan priest working in Dublin and being a monk is. And for me, the big one is community. For it is in the community gathered here at Mepkin and praying together that I most appreciate the presence of the risen Lord. Having brothers with whom I share my life is very important to me. Very few of us are called to be hermits. But by getting together as we do today two thousand years after the event, we place ourselves in a good position to experience the Risen Lord. Isolation is not the way forward, but by experiencing it, Thomas realizes his needs to be part of a community, so he returns and meets Jesus.
Next, the crack of denial. If you read today’s first reading without any background, you would think that Peter was truly a heroic figure. People are healed at Solomon’s portico, and when Peter comes by, people wanted his shadow to fall on the sick so that they would be healed. But we know better. We know his background. Is this not the same Peter, who a few weeks before said, “I don’t know the man.” Peter the Denier has become Peter the Healer. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, and it is not without significance that Peter is a redeemed sinner. He receives forgiveness from the Lord, and from the community, and not least, from himself. By his very act of denying Jesus and seeking mercy, he lays the foundation for his ministry of healing and reconciliation. No false humility from Peter. He knows he’s a weak man, and asks for mercy.
Finally, the crack of fear. We’re told that the doors were closed and locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. None of us likes being afraid, but many of us can be crippled by fear. I know it myself, because anxiety is part of my DNA. And I often fear things that don’t happen. But it’s in that very situation of fear that the Easter Jesus appears, and His first words are, “Peace be with you.” Interestingly, Jesus, in His appearances, still carries His wounds. How we need someone who will understand our wounds, our fears, and speak the beautiful words to us, “Peace be with you.” Dear sisters and brothers, this is a day of joy and mercy, and we celebrate divine mercy and bask in Easter joy. Let us not be afraid of our absences, of our denials, our fears, our weaknesses, but let Jesus speak to us, “Peace be with you,” and let Him show us His wounds so that we can show Him our wounds, and thus, be healed. Ring the bells that still can ring/forget your perfect offering/there’s a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in/that’s how the light gets in.