my miscellany

Easter II, 2018 — 8 Apr 18

Easter II, 2018

RCL Year B Easter 2
Acts 4:32–35, Psalm 133, I John 1:1—2:2, Saint John 20:19-31

The Gospel just proclaimed continually is proclaimed on this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter. Every year on this day we hear it, and you can easily see why.

First, it is a Gospel of the first two Sundays of the first Easter. The first portion occurs on the first Easter night, and the second portion, a crucial portion, when Thomas meets the resurrected Jesus, occurs on the second Sunday after the resurrection. The two different events are joined by that little phrase, “a week later his disciples were again in the house.”[1]

Second, the Gospel tells of Thomas’ meeting with the resurrected Jesus, the meeting when Thomas sees him for the first time. The encounter anticipates your meeting and my meeting with the resurrected Lord. It’s a meeting we all share. We shall see him if we haven’t already. We shall see his wounds and his face, and we shall have the opportunity to recognize him, to see him for whom he is, just like Thomas. We shall see what we have done to him, and we shall see what we have done for him. And through it all, we shall have to experience his love for us, the very love which meets Thomas’ doubt, the very love which gives Thomas the glimpse he needs in order to believe. The Gospel today and this Eucharist are a preparation for that day and that meeting when we shall have our opportunity to say, “My Lord and my God!”[2]

[1] Saint John 20:26.

[2] Saint John 20:28.

Easter 2, 2017 — 23 Apr 17

Easter 2, 2017

RCL Easter 2
Acts 2:14a 22-32, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Saint John 20:19-31

On this the Eighth Day of Easter, we have a Gospel that occurs on the Eighth Day after the Resurrection. There is no wonder at the Church’s decision to proclaim this Gospel on this Day every year.

The disciples are gathered together in their usual place, where they were gathered a week earlier when Thomas was not with them, and today Thomas is with them. Jesus appears to them for the second time and shows Thomas his hands and his side, where the nails and the spear had been hammered and thrust, and Thomas believes. Having been absent from them at Jesus’ first appearance, Thomas disbelieves the disciples’ report of Jesus’ appearance. And so, Jesus appears again and gives Thomas what he needs to believe.

Saint John’s Twentieth Chapter specifies the process whereby four followers of Jesus come to believe that Jesus has been raised. And the process of each of them instructs us how we may come to believe.

You remember how John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and Peter have a footrace to the empty tomb. John arrives first but does not enter. Peter arrives and enters. John follows Peter in and believes. They return to their homes.

The process is a little more complicated for Mary Magdalene and Thomas. Mary stands weeping outside the tomb as Peter and then John enter. They leave, and Mary remains outside when Jesus approaches her. She thinks he is the gardener, and Jesus speaks her name. She recognizes him.

Thomas, who was not with the disciples for Jesus’ first appearance to them, tells them he will need to see the mark of the nails and to put his finger there and his hand in Jesus’ side in order to believe.

In every point Jesus accommodates Thomas. There is nothing that John, Peter, Mary, and Thomas need to believe that is withheld from them. I believe that Jesus gives to each of us what we need to believe. I think that is the theme of Saint John’s Twentieth Chapter. God gives us what we need to believe.

I would say to you also that the disciples are not out looking for Jesus. They are not singing, “My sweet Lord…I really want to see you.” They are shut up, fearful of being out of doors—what happened to Jesus could happen to them for following him. They could be next. Peter and John catch on right away. The burial cloths are all they need to see to believe. But Jesus approaches those, Mary and Thomas, whose reason clouds their faith. And he gives them what they need to believe.

The Lord is in a conversation with them, and he provides everything they need to believe that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”[1]

It is enough to believe that Jesus reveals himself to us, for he responds to us that way. That is the witness of the Gospel to us. The words of the Epistle may well apply to us. “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[2]

[1] Saint John 20:31.

[2] 1 Peter 1:8=9.

Easter II, 2015 — 12 Apr 15

Easter II, 2015

Easter II, 2015
April 12
Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, I John 1:1–2:2, Saint John 20:19-31

The Gospel today begins exactly where the Gospel last week, on Easter Day, ends. You remember that the resurrected Jesus approaches Mary Magdalene, who had come to the tomb to anoint his body, and she does not recognize him. She supposes he is the gardener, but he calls her by name, he gets her attention, and she recognizes him. The only thing she has to do is to recognize him. Frightened, she runs off, back to the house where the disciples were meeting together after the Lord’s arrest and crucifixion, and she proclaims to them that she has seen the Lord.[1]

Today’s Gospel takes place in that house in the evening of that first Easter Day. Some time has elapsed; and the Lord himself comes among them, and shows himself to them. He shows them his hands and his side, and they believe. There is a catch, though. Thomas is not with them, and later he says he will not believe unless he sees, as the other disciples have seen, his hands and his side. A week later, the second Sunday of the first Easter, the Lord returns and gives Thomas what he has said he needs: the Lord shows him his hands and his side, and Thomas believes. He exclaims, “My Lord and my God.”[2]

And then Jesus gives us the main point of these two episodes in the house with the disciples. He says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”[3]

I don’t usually retell the Gospel in such detail as I have just done. I wouldn’t do it without a good reason. And I want to develop that reason now.

Mary Magdalene, then the disciples, and finally Thomas have a direct experience of the resurrected Lord. And they each believe in that resurrection because of that direct experience. Seeing is believing. When Mary Magdalene sees and recognizes Jesus, she believes. When the disciples see Jesus, they believe. When Thomas puts his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in his side, he believes along with the others.

But what about others? What about those who have not put their fingers in the mark of the nails and their hand in the side of the resurrected Lord? What about those who were far away or to whom the Lord in his resurrected body did not appear? And, of course, by extension, what about us, the centuries-removed inheritors of the disciples’ witness, how is it that we could come or have come to believe? How does belief happen if you cannot put your finger in the mark of the nails or your hand in his side?

Jesus is with you in the flesh and the blood; he is with you in the bread and the wine, the sacramental tokens of his presence. The Lord presents himself through the Holy Spirit in two principal ways. First, he presents himself through the witness of those who’ve already come to believe in his resurrection. I mean by this that marks of authenticity, the equivalents of the marks of the nails and the spear, distinguish those who believe in him. Those marks are so numerous as to be almost too many to number. But some of them are: commitment to Christ and his Church, faithfulness, prayerfulness, charity, forgiveness, trust in history as God’s own gift to its participants, and the selfless willingness to serve Christ and each other. There are many others. One reason that Christianity exists in communities is that these marks live in communities. The marks are there for all to see, to rely on, and to encourage in each other. Christ is alive, because the people who put their trust in him live and live not for themselves alone but live for him. We stand the best chance of meeting him when we are with those whose trust is in him. And so, worship and fellowship with each other are important to growth in faith.

The second way that the risen Lord presents himself is through the need of those for whom he died, the need of the poor, and even the need of those who know him not. When we see helplessness, or poverty, or weakness, or sicknesses, we see the need for Christ. We have the opportunity to think of him and the reasons for which he was willing to die. We can see him in the need for him, and in his Spirit, we can give ourselves to meet that need. Our willingness to give ourselves remains an important mark of authenticity. In our words, we can meet him in our mission. We can meet him when we meet someone else’s need. We can meet him, in other words, in our mission as a community of faith.

We stand a chance to meet him in worship, in fellowship, and in mission. He is here waiting to be recognized, waiting to be understood as the meaning of your life, the meaning that draws every experience together, the meaning without which we can make no sense of anything. Alleluia. Christ is risen.

[1] Saint John 20:18.

[2] Saint John 20:28.

[3] Saint John 20:29.

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