2nd Sunday in Easter, cycle C

Reading #1:  Acts of the Apostles 5: 12-16

This book (by the same writer as Luke’s Gospel) is sort of a cultic biography. It is a rather idealized version of the early church – the first people who knew and lived the reality of the Risen Christ.  It acts like a norm by which we are to measure our attempts at being church.  What do you find important in this reading?

This Second Sunday of Easter has become known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  God’s mercy often comes to us through the quiet gift of another person who touches us with love, understanding, hope. — like a nurse who takes unusual care or a friend who really listens – who laughs with us and who likes us despite our ‘faults.’  Like Peter, we can all cast the shadow of God’s love and healing over another person . . .      How have you experienced such mercy?

(Exploring the Sunday Readings, April 2004)

In Near Eastern cultures of this time, a shadow was commonly thought of as an extension of the person. It was a time of ‘magical understanding’ rather than scientific. It was even thought that one might harm people by stabbing their shadow. Symbolically, it was often used in Hebrew scripture as a sign of protection – especially God’s protection as in Ps. 17:8: “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”  (Understanding God’s Word, April – June, 2007)

Consider that word:  esteemed.  What images does it conjure in your mind?  “The people esteemed them.”  The dictionary has synonyms of

respectadmirevalueregardappreciateprizetreasurerevere.

Who does this for you?  Who esteems you to be who you are and dare to put yourself out there?  Imagine if the people did not esteem them?

Reading #2:  Revelation 1: 9 – 13, 17-19

Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. It means unveiling; it tries to reveal the truth through ‘safe’ but powerful images, symbols, colors, numbers, visions and cryptic language. This is potent symbolic literature – it is written to those who had suffered persecution and were looking forward to more in the future.  It was to assure them that goodness would never be overcome by evil.  It draws the whole Biblical story into its own – a story of a God who journeys with humans to guide, shape and reshape human history.  (Celebration, April, 2004)

The seven gold lampstands refers to the seven churches to which this ‘letter’ was written – what do you think of this image for a church?  Notice Jesus is standing in the midst of them, with his feet showing and dressed like the lampstands.  His first words are not to be afraid.  How does this speak to you?

Do you have dreams/visionary insights/imaginary thought that impact your life too?

The Gospel:  John 20:19-31

Can you relate to Thomas?  When have doubts ever led you to greater faith?

“To believe in the resurrection of Jesus means to undertake

the surprising risk of reckoning with Jesus Christ as a present reality.”                                                                                             (Meinrad Limbeck)

What does that statement mean to you?  This gospel reading is a culminating event in John’s gospel — shining forth with insight, symbol, and challenge.  The community that gave us John’s gospel was experiencing much persecution, both from the Roman Empire that declared them illegal to the Jewish synagogues that declared them unwelcome.

What meaning do you find in:

the locked doors

‘the fear of the Jews’ (the authorities)

Shalom, “Peace be with you,” Jesus’ greeting

Jesus breathing on them (Genesis 2: 7; Ezekiel 37)

the power of forgiveness

the binding that comes from the lack of forgiveness

the wounds of Jesus

Thomas’ experience of doubt and faith (See John 11: 16)

It seems particularly important to John’s community to have Jesus assure those “who have not seen and have believed.”

Easter reality: Jesus lives; fear not!  This is the cornerstone of our faith – joyfully proclaimed, but not easy to live.  Fear can be crippling: fear of failure, fear of hurting or being hurt, fear of loss, fear of not knowing love, fear of pain, fear that what I know may not be so . . . Yet, a cowering band of men and women, hiding out from the authorities, suddenly became a powerful and public force for good  . . . What made the difference? In the risen Christ they found the end to fear . . .   (Celebration, April, 2004)

At the end of this gospel story, John writes that he has told this story so that “you may come to believe . . . and that through this belief you may have life.”

But the word John uses for belief is not a noun – but a verb! In fact, John never uses the noun faith or belief; he uses the verb 98 times! John is not concerned with an inward system of thoughts, but an active commitment to trust in Jesus and in his word. This is what it means to be a disciple. It is the very reason the Father sent Jesus and why Jesus came: “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:15). Jesus’ whole life, ministry, death, and resurrection are oriented to this one outcome. This is why Jesus persisted in the face of conspiracy, rejection, abandonment – and it is why Jesus came that Easter morning to those who were locked in fear – and then again to Thomas. It is also why he continues to come to us offering us his peace.    (“Working with the Word”, Zimmerman, http://liturgy.slu.edu )

How many of us are like Thomas? Our faith may be strong, but there are slivers of doubt that creep in now and then. It is an ancient problem and John gives us an honest scene to ponder. Here are the disciples of Jesus hiding behind locked doors — Afraid. They were not expecting the Risen Christ. Locked doors are not a welcoming gesture! But suddenly he is there – offering peace, forgiveness, new life. There are no auras, no blinding lights, no accompanying angels to identify Jesus. Only his wounds. Doesn’t our own faith-life have more wounds than auras or lights or angels? Like the disciples we have seen many wounds. Of course, our culture tries hard to hide wounds and wrinkles and scars. Yet, perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have to share with each other is our woundedness. Only those comfortable with wounds can enter into the wounded places of others. Like Jesus, we carry our wounds with us. One powerful witness to resurrection may be our willingness to embrace these wounds — not out of some maudlin, masochistic, woe-is-me pleasure. Rather, we need to be ‘wounded-healers’ for each other (Henri Nouwen). For “the blessing lies close to the wound” as an African saying proclaims. Here in the ‘sacred wounds’ of one another we may find the presence of the Living One who can and will breath new life into us all. That is how our faith saves us. (Celebration, April 2000)

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