- Published: Monday, 02 April 2018 17:37
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
Second Sunday of Easter Year
April 8, 2018
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
Caravaggio’s ‘The Incredulity of Saint Thomas’ (1601-02)
Go on …. Touch me.
The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us.
No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness….
The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste.
What belongs to God will never get lost.
Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift
Acts 4: 32-35 Those who believed were together and had all things in common.
Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting or: Alleluia.
1 Jn 5:1-6 The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.
John 20:19-31 Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.
· Jesus, you say to us: ‘Peace be with you’ as you are present among us with your Word and your body: Jesus, have mercy.
· Jesus, you say to us: Peace be with you,’ as you forgive us our sins. Christ, have mercy.
· Jesus, you say to us: ‘Peace be with you’ as you send us to bring your peace to all: Jesus, have mercy.
God of Peace,
as we celebrate Christ's resurrection,
may we be mindful of the new life
you give us through the Spirit.
As we encounter Jesus daily and live in his peace
may we not look for him among the dead
but open our eyes to see his wounds
and touch them in the people who suffer in our world.
Prayers of the Faithful
Introduction: With hearts open to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit let us direct our prayers to God. The response is: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That all who exercise leadership in the Church bear witness to Jesus’ first gift of the resurrection – the gift of peace – by lowering walls and barriers to people who seek to fully participate in the church community. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That all Christian Churches together with people of other faiths and people of good continue to develop ways toward peace and unity by mutual respect for the diversity and expression of culture and religion. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That peace will come to the peoples of Syria, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and efforts be made resolve differences between North Korea and their brothers and sisters in the south. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That there may be forgiveness where there has been hurt, reconciliation where there is division, peace where there is conflict; respect where there is intolerance in our national community. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That the people of Iraq, and Afghanistan will in their own ways find ways toward national reconciliation where they will discover in the other not a stranger to be feared but a friend to be embraced. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That all those who profess faith in the risen Jesus may open doors that have been locked for fear of the other, especially those who are of a different culture, racial background, or sexual minority. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That the international community may not remain indifferent to the immense humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding in those nations where violence has unfolded and resulted in the great tragedy – especially at this time the people of Palestine and the Rohingya peoples. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That the culture of encounter may grow between Israelis and Palestinians so that a genuine peace with justice can be achieved. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
· That the people in Yemen as they continue to undergo foreign aggression and interference may finally find peace and well being. We pray: Fill us with your Peace, O God.
Concluding Prayer: Loving God, the Risen Jesus is present among us with his scars. As we look upon the scars and wounds in brothers and sisters and on our earth, may we recognise your presence with them in solidarity and strive to people of healing and reconciliation.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Peace,
we have become a new creation
through the resurrection of Jesus.
Accept our offerings in our gathering today
and may our words and actions in the world reveal that
we share the gift of peace the resurrection offers to all.
Deliver us, God of Peace, from the darkness of sin and evil
and grant us the peace that comes from justice and friendship.
Set us free from the prisons we have made
for ourselves and for others by blindness and selfishness,
and let the light of Jesus, your Son, shine on us
as we prepare for the full coming
of Christ Jesus, our Saviour. R/ For the kingdom...
Prayer after Communion
God of Peace,
we have been nourished by Jesus’ word of peace
and the bread and wine we have shared.
Help us to be risen people who grow in faith and love
as we rise above our doubts, fears and indifference
to build together a community and a world
where joy and truth, love and justice,
peace and freedom become more and more a reality.
….and thus the risen Christ receive
These things did Thomas count as real:
the warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone,
the last frail twitch of flesh and bone.
The vision of his skeptic mind
was keen enough to make him blind
to any unexpected act
too large for his small world of fact.
His reasoned certainties denied
that one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille
the markings of the spear and nail.
May we, O God, by grace believe
And thus the risen Christ receive,
whose raw, imprinted palms reach out -
and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.
Thomas Troeger, © 1994 Oxford University Press
My soul finds its place in the Name, and my soul finds its ease in the embrace of the Name. I struggled with shapes and with numbers, and I carved with blade and brain to make a place, but I could not find a shelter for my soul. Blessed is the Name which is the safety of the soul, the spine and the shield of the innermost man, and the health of the innermost breath. I search the words that attend your mercy. You lift me out of destruction, and you win me my soul. You gather it out of the unreal by the power of your name. Blessed is the Name that unifies demand, and changes the seeking into praise. Out of the panic, out of the useless plan, I awaken to your name, and solitude to solitude all your creatures speak, and through the inaccessible intention all things fall gracefully. Blessed in the shelter of my soul, blessed is the form of mercy, blessed is the Name.
Leonard Cohen Book of Mercy, # 47
… be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Resolve to be always beginning - to be a beginner!
Rainer Maria Rilke Letters on Love
The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918- ) Russian writer, Soviet dissident, imprisoned for 8 years for criticising Stalin in a personal letter, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1970
The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157
The fundamental sin is exploitation, whether it be expressed in the domination of male over female, white over black, rich over poor, strong over weak, armed military over unarmed civilians, human beings over nature. These analogously abusive patterns interlock because they reset on the same base: a structure where an elite insists on its superiority and claims the right to exercise dominative power over all others considered subordinate, for its own benefit.
Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, She Who Is, page 27
As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.
Every one of us is impacted by a dominant culture which insists that military or police force will make things right. Every day, that culture tells us that dirty tricks, usually done in secret, are required for our survival. After all, it's argued, someone has to do this dirty work. It's called a noble work and the Blackwater mercenaries are required for the work. It will take an expanding world-wide but grassroots culture reaching beyond national borders to fashion a body of Christian peacemakers to be an effective power to block the guns and be part of transforming each impending tragedy of war. Little by little there will be change.
Gene Stoltzfus (1940-2010), peacemaker, founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right - either in the dean's office or in our marriage or in the hospital [or in the church]. And as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism.
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination
Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer.
Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the human person, above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed, who, besides being human beings, are also divine beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all politics. They touch the very heart of God.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism p.128
If a (man) is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinise it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.
Bertrand Russell, Roads to Freedom
The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.
Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen -- a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person's] life.-
Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one's heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world.
Hans Peter Kolvenbach, SJ, former superior-general of the Society of Jesus
Come Holy Spirit,
whose justice outwits international conspiracy,
whose light outshines spiritual bigotry,
whose peace can overcome the destructive potential of warfare,
whose promise invigorates our every effort
to create a new heaven and a new earth now and forever.
Diarmuid O’Murchu MSC
Looking in the wrong places
we are always looking for you
in the wrong places;
among the good and respectable people,
when we should know you are to be
found with the poor and disreputable and outcast.
we are always looking for you
in the wrong places,
at a safe distance,
but you come so close to us,
nearer to us than breathing.
We look for you in churchy things,
but we are more likely to find you
among the pots and pans,
or around the kitchen table….
We look for you in buildings,
but you walked crowed streets,
Even now, even after Easter,
still we insist on trying to find you
among the tombstones;
among long-dead dogmas,
in old, decaying fears and hurts,
in the guilts and resentments
we inhabit like a coffin.
But the angel said:
Why do you look for him among the dead?
He is not here!
help us to lay down the grave clothes,
roll away the stone and come out into life,
here and now.
We will find you, among the living,
ahead of us, going to the Galilee we seek.
You have wrestled death to the ground,
and now there is nowhere we can go,
no darkness we can enter,
which is not God-encompassed.
Kathy Galloway, Talking to the Bones,SPCK, London, 1996
Romantic love is blind to everything except what is lovable and lovely, but Christ's love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us whole. Christ's love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy. The worst sentence Love can pass is that we behold the suffering that Love has endured for our sake, and that is also our acquittal. The justice and mercy of the judge are ultimately one.
Frederick Buechner, American theologian and writer
The movement had a way of reaching inside me and bringing out things that I never knew were there. Like courage, and love for people. It was a real experience to be seeing a group of people who would put their bodies between you and danger. And to love people that you work with enough that you would put your body between them and danger.
Diane Nash, organizer for the Freedom Rides during the civil rights movement, quoted in Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams
For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was both protest and prayer. Legs are not lips, and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, American rabbi, theologian, and philosopher
Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, an advocate for the poor and marginalized, was assassinated thirty years ago (March 24, 1970) while celebrating Mass in El Salvador.
When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.
Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop
The difference between social service and social justice is that social service ‘works to alleviate hardship’ while social justice ‘aims to eradicate the root causes of that hardship.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Patterning your life around other's opinions is nothing more than slavery.
‘There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.
I thank God that at this hour I am dangerous to the war profiteers of this country who rob the people on the one hand, and rob and debase the government on the other; and then with their pockets and wallets stuffed with the filthy, bloodstained profits of war, wrap the sacred folds of the Stars and Stripes about them and [about] their blatant hypocrisy to the world.
Kate Richards O'Hare's Address To the Court Proceedings on the Sentencing of Mrs. Kate Richards O'Hare by Hon Martin J. Wade, 1 P. M., Friday, Dec 14, 1917.
A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it's uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing -- resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings.
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
Robert Frost, poet, b., March 26, 1874
Power consists in deciding which story shall be told.
Our dreams must be stronger than our memories. We must be pulled by our dreams, rather than pushed by our memories.
[The one] who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
M. Scott Peck
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
We are all meant to be mothers of God.
Meister Eckart, 14th century mystic
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.
The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.
I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken;
inside ‘love’ there is more joy than we know of;
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds;
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!
Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word ‘reason’ you already feel miles away.
How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy
he sings inside his own little boat.
His poems amount to one soul meeting another.
These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.
They rise above both coming in and going out.
What’s In the Temple?
In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.
The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.
The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for us to follow.
The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.
The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.
If she stands still it will catch up with her.
Pause with us here a while.
Put your ear to the wall of your heart.
Listen for the whisper of knowing there.
Love will touch you if you are very still.
If I say the word God, people run away.
They’ve been frightened--sat on ‘till the spirit cried ‘uncle.’
Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can’t name.
They know he’s out there looking for them, and they want to be found,
But there is all this stuff in the way.
I can’t talk about God and make any sense,
And I can’t not talk about God and make any sense.
So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.
I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.
Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm fur,
And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.
You see there the consequences of carelessness,
And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.
The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.
We don’t build many temples anymore.
Maybe we learned that the sacred can’t be contained.
Or maybe it can’t be sustained inside a building.
It’s the spirit that lives on.
If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
What would you worship there?
What would you bring to sacrifice?
What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?
Go there now.
It is also in the interests of a tyrant to keep his people poor, so that they may not be able to afford the cost of protecting themselves by arms and be so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for rebellion.
Aristotle in Politics, J. Sinclair translation, pg. 226, 1962
Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like.
Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice.
How we burned in the prison camps later thinking: What would things have been like if every police operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive? If during periods of mass arrests people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever was at hand? The organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and, not withstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt.
Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war.
The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another's throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell.
The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose-especially their lives.
Eugene Debs, 16 June 1918: The speech was given to about 1,200 people and was later used against Debs to make the case that he had violated the espionage Act. The judge sentenced Debs to ten years in prison:
Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by ‘a world of enemies’, ‘one against all’, that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism p.227
Americans cannot escape a certain responsibility for what is done in our name around the world. In a democracy, even one as corrupted as ours, ultimate authority rests with the people. We empower the government with our votes, finance it with our taxes, and bolster it with our silent acquiescence. If we are passive in the face of America's official actions overseas, we in effect endorse them.
Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.
To be a follower of Jesus means in the first place to enter by compassion into his experience, with all that it expresses of the divine and of the human. And it means in the second place to enter with him into the suffering and the hope of all human persons, making common cause with them as he does, and seeking out as he does the places of his predilection among the poor and despised and oppressed.
Monika K. Hellwig, Jesus: The Compassion of God
When shall we have the courage to outgrow the charity mentality and see that at the bottom of all relations between rich and poor there is a problem of justice?
Dom Helder Camara, former archbishop of Recife, Brazil
Do you believe that God is present in the smile of a child, in the tears of a parent's grief over a suffering adolescent, in the sudden breakthrough of understanding between quarrelling spouses? Eternal truths can be learned by observing the most common elements of life: nursing an infant may be a window into God's nurturing care for each of us; bandaging a cut can help us know the healing desire of God; playing games may speak of the divine playfulness that knows our need for recreation; tending a garden may teach us the dynamics of growth. Families learn that they are sacred communities when they begin to name and claim the many forms of God's grace in their daily life.
Marjorie J. Thompson, Family: The Forming Center
Peace demands the most heroic labour and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.
Frederic D. Huntington
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism, are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
What God requires of those who call on God's name is responsive servanthood. God wishes to act in and through us, so Christian hope does not relieve men and women of responsibility. We are not primarily responsible for shrewd analysis of problems, for strategic selection of means, for maximizing the chances of success. We are primarily responsible for turning to God, for attempting to know and do God's will. That well may lead us into actions which are not shrewd, strategic, or successful, as the life of Jesus suggests. But as Jesus' life demonstrates, human action which is faithful to God's will can have transforming effect.
Parker Palmer, The Company of Strangers
Reverence is a gentle virtue; it is also strong.
Reverence is a tender virtue; it is also tough.
Reverence is a patient virtue; it is also persistent.
Reverence bears no ill will toward others;
it is able to bear the ill will of others when necessary.
Reverence is a virtue that prepares us well to belong to one another;
it reaches out to those who have been given messages of not wishing to belong.
When we approach others with gentle reverence, we bring gifts and share theirs with us.
Paula Ripple, Growing Strong at Broken Places
From ancient times storytellers, poets and dramatists have presented the world in all its fullness; plants, animals, men and women, changing shape, speaking multiple languages, inter-marrying, travelling to the sky and under the Earth. The great myths and folktales of human magic and nature's power were our school for ten thousand years. Whether they know it or not, even modern writers draw strength from the wild side.
How can artists and writers manage to join in the defence of the planet and wild nature?
‘Jesus invites each one of us, through Thomas,
to touch not only his wounds,
but those wounds in others and in ourselves,
wounds that can make us hate others and ourselves
and can be a sign of separation and division.
These wounds will be transformed...’
‘There are only two feelings.
Love and fear.
There are only two languages.
Love and fear.
There are only two activities.
Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results.
Love and fear. Love and fear’
Reflections on the readings
It is a week since the resurrection and we still find the disciples in the same place, in the same room behind locked doors. Why are they still stuck in the same place, if the resurrection is meant to be such a life changing event? The empty tomb has made no difference and it seems they do not see themselves or their world differently.
Mary Magdalene’s announcement ‘I have seen the Lord’ made no impression on the disciples. Despite Jesus’ earlier appearance, they remained locked in fear in the same house, with the same closed doors, and the same locks. Despite just having celebrated Jesus’ resurrection it can seem easier and safer to avoid realities and people before us by locking the doors of the house or nation which amounts to locking the entrance into our hearts. Nothing has changed a week later when Thomas is present. Jesus has left the tomb but the disciples have created their own. Jesus’ resurrection: constant invitation to do life differently but fear can prevent us from seeing that life can be different. Thomas’ doubts at least left him open by his questioning. Let’s not forget his confession, ‘My Lord and my God!’ where he recognised and named a new relationship, a new way of seeing and a new way of being in the world. His doubts were the starting point for his life. It is intriguing that we seem to make more of Thomas’ doubt than the fear of the disciples. Doubting at least leaves one open to the new, whereas fear closes one off. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. It is fear which closes one off to the reality of the world and other people. Despite his doubts, Thomas did not give in to the fear that kept the disciples closed up in the room. He had been out and had the courage to return to a group of people which had had an experience he did not share. Thomas is a symbol not of faithlessness, but of courage.
Not having seen Jesus the previous week, Thomas demands to see his wounds. It is difficult to believe in the resurrection when those who say Jesus is risen do not look want to look at the wounds in themselves and others around them. It is difficult to believe in the resurrection if people are still locked up in fear. Was this not Thomas’ difficulty? Being in a locked room is not a good place for a follower of Jesus to be. It can seem easier and safer for us to avoid the circumstances of people before us not only by locking the doors of the house or nation but locking the entrance into our hearts. Jesus’ appearance in the upper room is not dissimilar to his appearance at the tomb of Lazarus. As Jesus said to Lazarus and to the disciples, ‘Come out!’ He is breathing the Spirit of life, mercy, compassion, courage and peace upon us for us to not only go beyond closed doors but also closed and barricaded hearts so that we can take that peace to others – so that they too will not make the tomb their natural habitat. For Thomas, however, faith is something that walks, touches, responds, learns.
Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta, along with Pope Francis, have been challenging the church about being a ghettoed, closeted and closed community: fearful of change, fearful of women’s’ rights; fearful of Muslims; fearful of progressive people; fearful of gay and lesbian; fearful of vulnerable people seeking a better life and protection; and so on. We see it also on the national level with the extraordinary priority placed on security and national interest and its impact on asylum seekers. The challenge for us Christians is to move from ‘kleiso’ (closeted) to ‘ecclesia’ (being open and free, especially from dominance and control). The disciples closeted behind ‘kleisoed’ doors, a closed community: fearful, ghettoed like many today: fearful of women’s’ rights; Muslims; new ideas; people of colour; gay and lesbian people, etc. We see what fear can do to people: the emphasis on security and national interest and its impact on asylum seekers. We are challenged to move from ‘kleiso’ to ‘ecclesia’ (Greek for church). The risen Jesus still breathes on us and is not be stopped by closed doors. The greatest challenge is not closed doors but closed minds and hearts controlled by fear and that prevent us from opening the doors and removing the stones from the tombs of others.
Thomas has to see with his own eyes and make his unique response to the Jesus who always coming to us – and gives us peace and the Holy Spirit. Not only peace but be peacemakers. Jesus was sent to transform this world into a reign of justice, peace, love and joy. That is now our task. But how often is betrayed when the trust of innocents is betrayed; when we rely on power or violence. But Jesus still calls to be reconciling, forgiving, loving, seeking to draw people back without condemnation whether in our homes, neighbourhoods, communities, or wherever we are. We must be people who insist that the way to bring peace is through forgiveness, reconciliation and love, not by violence, war and death. This means also resisting violence and war, hunger and sickness, homelessness. We might doubt that what we do makes a difference, but it is important that we hold on to the confidence that we do make a difference and might unknowingly inspire others to also act justly, be peacemakers and serve others. But we cannot do that in a locked room, ghetto, church building. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’
The tomb could not hold Jesus and his message of transformation and freedom did not end there. He is still active in the world and undercuts the strongholds of exploitation, degradation and injustice.
When narrow-minded and opportunistic politicians rant against asylum seekers; greedily lust for power; engage in indiscriminate killing in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and now Yemen in the name of ‘peace’ - Jesus liberating love continues. It continues when we say ‘no’ to this; no to detention of innocent people; no to people trafficking; no to indigenous people forced off their ancestral lands to make way for mines or beef cattle stations; no to people being imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their beliefs; no to money meant for the poor being used to make more weapons.
Thomas, unlike many others, was not locked away in safety. He knew death when he saw it. Despite talk of a sensational rising from the dead, he knew it had something to do with wounds and scars. The only God that matters is one with wounds. It is the only one that can be in solidarity with crucified peoples of the earth.
We have seen many wounds in our lifetime: our own, those of loved ones, the wounds of our world and also the earth. They are before us daily if we care to look. Today’s gospel passage is super-imposed over each image of a wounded adult or child or the earth. And Jesus points to these wounds – for they are his too. He says to each of us ‘put your finger here’ – to touch, to put our minds and voices there. Will we remain in that room locked in fear and hopelessness and avoid the confrontation that may come when we raise our voices? Will we do life differently? Will we believe that we are held together by the one who speaks of peace, wholeness, connectedness, and inclusiveness?
Thomas does not want an idea for Jesus but a flesh and blood Jesus. Our faith needs to have hands and feet; it needs voices and a heart capable of crossing walls as Jesus does - real walls that have divided people.
The risen Christ comes to us with scars. It witnesses to his oneness with us and all people who bear scars of any kind. The gospel writer is not concerned with houses, locks and doors but with the heart that can lock houses and doors. Jesus constantly enters the locked places of our lives – the fears, the blindness, the sorrow and scars to open us up to new ideas, new possibilities and change.
The great tragedy will be if the disciples refuse to unlock the doors, refuse to open the doors, and refuse to get out the house. What are the doors that are locked in our lives? Our families? Our church communities? Our nation? What things kept us stuck in the same place? The great thing is that this is the starting point. We can find hope that Jesus cannot be kept out of our locked places, minds and hearts. He breathes peace and hope into us. He breathes peace and courage into us. He breathes peace and strength into us. Let that breath of peace be the key that unlocks the door.
The wounds are a reminder that Jesus was crucified by the powerful to maintain the religious and political status quo. As we approach Earth Day, we are reminded that the earth is being crucified by us. Those wounds include countless species extinctions, collapse of fisheries, rampant deforestation, demise of coral reefs, rising sea levels, acidified oceans, and rising global temperatures, caused by the unprecedented rise in greenhouse gases from industrial nations. Those wounds include and appear in the mounting human toll: famine and drought that bring starvation and death in increasing numbers and frequency, more and more people fleeing their drought-stricken lands or sinking coasts, a rise in mental health issues for those who have suffered repeated flooding and storms. We cannot look away. As people of faith, we must recognise that the root causes of climate change which affects the poor and underdeveloped nations most are due to human greed, narrow vision, indifference to the plight of others, and the fear of lifestyle changes.
These wounds cannot be ignored. They must be seen and felt and believed as in the case of Jesus. Can we touch the deepening wounds of the earth, encounter flesh and blood victims of polluted water and rising sea levels, meet with people whose lives are disrupted by drought, flooding, and storm.
Do we remain in that symbolic upper room in fear and hopelessness and avoid the confrontation that may come when we raise our voices about these wounds? Do we do life differently? Do we live differently? Will we let the god of individualism and capitalism continue to dominate our lives and ignore the wounds of the earth and of all beings? Do we believe that we are held together by the presence of one who speaks words of peace, wholeness, connectedness, and inclusiveness?
Today’s gospel is less concerned with houses, locks and doors but with the heart and how Jesus can and does enter the locked places of our lives – the fears, the blindness, the sorrow and scars to open us up to new ideas, new possibilities and change. He steps into our closed lives, hearts and minds offering us peace and new life. He does it for us and invites us to do that for one another; to open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being.