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April, 22 2014

2nd Sunday of Easter (A)

Deacon Dave Shea, DMin

John 20:19-31

 

Here it is just a week after Easter Sunday, a day when this church, decorated so beautifully, was filled to its breaking. It was a day of great rejoicing and celebration. The choir—with violins, trombones, trumpets and drums—raised the roof. And we couldn’t help ourselves from singing. It was Easter Sunday and for Christians it was as good as it gets! We had made it through another Lent; the long marathon of sacrifices and prayer and self-denial; all of that was behind us.  And we were finally able to indulge in whatever it was that we had given up for 46 days. Families and friends came together for Easter dinner and egg hunts and other cherished traditions.

But that was then. Now we’re on the other side of Easter. That Easter euphoria; that incredible hope that came from the resurrection of Jesus, is so hard to sustain. We’ve put away those Easter baskets and the kids have consumed almost all of the chocolate bunnies. Oh, the church is still decorated, and maybe we still have some of those same feelings of joy, but many of us have gone back to where we were and to what we were; to whatever we were doing until, “Easter came along and interrupted us with its glory and its transformation.” And for a few wonderful hours, whatever doubts we have had about the resurrection were eased and pushed aside. But believing in the unbelievable is so hard.

Just look at the disciples, those who had been hand-picked by Jesus, huddled together in fear behind secured doors, hoping to escape all notice. They were not very good disciples; they were a far cry from meeting the requirements of their job description. They weren’t good students of Jesus—they had heard what he said, but didn’t understand it. They never really grasped what was going on. And everything they had done was because of Jesus’ instruction, his guidance, his support, his encouragement. He was always close at hand, and now he was dead and now he was gone. What now?

Into their midst Jesus appears. The Gospel explains that they rejoiced when they saw the Lord. But there also had to be confused and baffled—were they really seeing what they were seeing? Jesus’ very appearance defied everything that was logical. The man they had followed, loved and abandoned; that man was brutally executed and placed in a tomb. How could he be alive?

No one really knows why Thomas was missing on that Sunday evening. Maybe he wanted to be alone with his own grief over the death of Jesus. But whatever the reason, he wasn’t there. Thomas was a complex man of courage and fear; of knowledge and ignorance; of faith and doubt. So when the others reported on Jesus’ incredible appearance, their mere say-so wasn’t enough. He couldn’t trust their word; he had to see and . . . he had to touch for himself.

Thank God for Thomas. He spoke-up when the others were silent; when the others kept their doubts to themselves. His response was rational and logical. He was a proof-seeker who put conditions on his belief. Thomas takes the words right out of our mouths and gives voice to every doubt and every question that we have about our faith in Christ. We may not be as direct and blunt in our demands as he was, but we’re just as resolute. We don’t find it any easier to live by faith than he did. Thomas gives us the chance to think about the demands we place on believing or not believing in the resurrection. Thank God for Thomas who stands in for all of us who want to see something for ourselves before we decide if it’s true.

For many of us, it’s hard to accept and believe what we so casually profess in our Creed—one God, three persons, one Lord who came down from heaven, who died, was buried and rose from the dead. It’s hardly rational; it doesn’t make any sense. We’re our own proof seekers. That’s us—not seeing, not hearing, not having a chance to put our fingers into the nail marks of his hands and our hands into his side. And we say, “Show me! Prove it to me! Let me see it and . . . let me touch it!”

Thomas set conditions for believing, and Jesus met every one of them. Jesus did whatever was necessary to bring Thomas to faith so he no longer had to take anyone’s word for it. And because of what happened to him and the others, they no longer stayed behind locked doors. They left their safe haven and went out in all directions and gave witness to what they saw and what they experienced with Christ.

Ours is an Easter faith. We have Thomas and the other disciples to thank for that. Without the resurrection, without their witness to the resurrection, we’d have no faith. We wouldn’t be here. But here we are today huddled together in this room, in this church. And Christ appears in our midst showing us his hands and his side. Only we can’t see him, not like Thomas, not like those disciples, not without the eyes of faith. “Only here it is bread and wine that miraculously and inexplicably are transformed into Christ himself, making him as present as he can ever be in this life. Here is our tangible proof of the resurrection.

We are an Easter people. We are Christ’s Church. We stand on that first fledgling community that came together on the strength of faith and witness. What they had, what held them together, is what we have – a new life in the risen Lord. And because of the resurrection, we live differently on Easter Sunday, on this Sunday, and on every day of our lives.

Easter is a new opportunity for us today to come out from behind our locked doors, from behind whatever is keeping us from speaking out on our faith. Look around and ask yourself, “Who’s missing? Who’s not here who should be here? Who got left at home? Who didn’t get invited?” Maybe it’s a son or a daughter and you’re just tired of arguing with them about how boring Mass is? Maybe it’s a husband or wife who has given up on their faith? Perhaps it’s a close friend who is putting their conditions on their beliefs? Tell them that Christ will meet their conditions and do whatever is necessary to bring them to faith. Tell them what you’ve seen here—that ordinary bread and wine becomes Christ himself; that water, the same water that flows from our kitchen faucets and fills our rivers, that water cleanses souls of all sin and marks them for eternity; that a community of people come together bringing all of their own doubts and fears in the most powerful sign that Christ is risen and alive. Tell them that Jesus called us blessed because we believe without seeing and without touching.

 

References and Resources:

Bausch, William J. Once Upon a Gospel, Inspiring Homilies and Insightful Reflections, New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2008.

Bergant, Dianne with Richard Fragomeni. Preaching the New Lectionary, Year A. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2001.

Buetow, Harold A. God Still Speaks: Listen!, Homily Reflections for Sundays & Holy Days, Cycle A. NY: Alba House, 1995.

Donovan, Richard Niell. Sermonwriter, Resources for Lectionary Preaching, http://www.sermonwriter.com

Gomes, Peter J. Sermons, Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living, NY: William Morrow & Company, 1998.

Siciliano, Jude, OP. First Impressions. Preachers' Exchange, http://www.preacherexchange.com.

Wallace, James A with Robert Waznak & Guerric DeBona, Lift Up Your Hearts, Homilies for the “A” Cycle, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2004.

 

 

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