09 April 2015

'Unless I see the mark of the nails . . .' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) directed by Philip Saville

John 20:19-31

Today is now known also as 'Sunday of Divine Mercy' and in some English-speaking countries as 'Low Sunday'.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

I carry a scar on one of my hips from surgery when I was 17. I can't even remember which hip. But the scar is there, along with a couple of smaller scars from accidents when I was young. I hardly ever think about them. But they are there.

St Thomas's instinct was right: Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. He knew that if the Lord was truly risen he would carry the scars of his suffering. And he carries them for all eternity.

Scars are reminders of wounds that were. The Risen Body of Christ carries the scars of his Passion and Crucifixion but they are no longer wounds.

But the Body of Christ that is the Church is being wounded daily. The world that God created is being wounded daily. In the first reading during the Easter Vigil (Genesis 1: 1 - 2:2) we heard these words: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them . . . God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good

But today we see much that he had made and that was very good destroyed or being destroyed. We see countless persons created in his image, in the image of God, being killed in endless conflicts.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we read: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

On Holy Thursday nearly 150 students were massacred in Garissa University College in Kenya because each was a temple of the Holy Spirit, a follower of Jesus, a Christian.

Pope Francis referred to these matters in his Urbi et Orbi, 'To the City and the World', message on Easter Sunday: We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are so many of them! . . . We ask for peace, above all, for beloved Syria and Iraq . . . We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land . . . We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease . . . We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – for those killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.

In his Regina Coeli remarks on Easter Monday (Regina Coeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter Season) Pope Francis spoke especially about the persecution of Christians today. He went so far as to sayThey are our martyrs of today, and there are many; we can say that there are more than in the first century.

Today is the last day of the Easter Octave, which Pope Francis spoke about: We are in the days of the Octave of Easter, during which we accompany the joyful climate of the Resurrection. It is curious: the Liturgy considers the entire Octave as one single day, to help us to enter into the mystery, so that His grace is imprinted into our hearts and into our lives. Easter is the event that brought the radical novelty for every human being, for history and for the world: the triumph of life over death; it is the feast of reawakening and regeneration. Let us allow our existence to be conquered and transformed by the Resurrection!

As St Thomas believed when he saw the scars that Jesus carried after his Resurrection, may we see the wounds of the Body of Christ, the wounds of God's creation, the wounds of those made in the image of God, the wounds of so many persecuted Christians, each a temple of the Holy Spirit, so that we too may believe and say, My Lord and my God!

And may that faith be lived in tending the wounds of others - and allowing others to tend to our own wounds.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon  Cf John 20:27

Mitte manum tuam, et cognosce loca clavorum,
Bring your hand and feel the place of the nails,
et noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis, alleluia.
and do not be unbelieving but believing, alleluia.

Below is a contemporary setting by Scottish composer James MacMillan.

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