The Second Sunday of Easter
April 19th, 2020
Maria Hoecker, scribe
In this season of Eastertide, so many of us around the world and around the corner find ourselves confined to our homes. We’re all stunned and wondering how life can change so suddenly as a lethal new virus spreads like wildfire. These days of the Pandemic are unprecedented, no one has ever seen anything like it at such a global magnitude.
Whether we are essential workers, or staying-at-home, or lying in great weakness gasping for breath, nearly all of us are sheltering in rooms and fearfully wondering what is happening. We’re hearing that loved ones and neighbors are at risk of dying and we won’t be able to go to them. On this second Sunday of Easter, it almost seems like the chaos of last week’s Good Friday is staying with us for a very long time and the slow dawning of Easter’s Light hasn’t quite reached us yet.
In these days of the global pandemic, perhaps we can more closely identify with Jesus’ disciples in today’s Gospel reading from John. We too are locked in behind closed doors and fearful of something we cannot see. We can’t see how this virus spreads, but we do know that legions of people are being crucified by it in profoundly frightening ways: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and economically. It is becoming clear that we aren’t going to go back to the way things were. Those fears are throwing out all sorts of doubts about who knows what to do next. As a global village, we all are changed by this virus whether we are sickened by it or not.
Most spiritually-connected citizens of all faiths on this fragile earth, our island home, deeply know and understand that we are One in Spirit on this planet. Our individual and collective actions can make a real difference in saving our neighbors and ourselves from dying. Many hope as Earth Day approaches on April 22, that this “Great Pause” can be a wake-up call which will point us all toward caring for all Creation, together. None can deny that our air is cleaner, as too many are gasping their last breaths.
We’re all doing what we can to persevere. Essential businesses and all those who labor to feed, supply, and care for us are in our daily prayers of thanksgiving and intercessions. We join with millions around the world who are doing what we can to stop the transmission of this virus. We’re fervently praying for the sick and dying; and for our neighbors, our loved ones, and ourselves to be shielded from contracting this unseen virus and dying alone in fear.
Our schools, our “non-essential” businesses, and our churches are closed in order to “flatten the curve.” This is primarily because we simply cannot gather in large groups and needlessly spread the virus, no matter what good we think comes out of our gathering. Jesus doesn’t want us to kill people by gathering in his name.
It seems impossible when such a raging viral storm is advancing that we cannot gather to bind up each other’s wounds and pray together. How can we have an Easter Day without being in church? How can we celebrate that which we cannot see nor touch? We long to see Jesus in the breaking of the bread, yet we cannot go where two or more can gather in God’s name. Where is the peace in that?
In my never-ending search of the peace of God which passes all understanding, I decided to take the Gospel reading appointed for today and paraphrase it into an illuminating story of what might happen if Jesus appeared to us in an unexpected way.
Could it be that Not Seeing IS Believing?
A true reading of today’s Gospel of John, read ‘round the world today, can be found here: https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Easter/AEaster2_RCL.html
A Peace Which Passes All Understanding…
as paraphrased by mjh+
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week and the doors of the church where the followers of Jesus used to meet were locked for fear of the Virus. So some of them decided to go to their own homes and try to meet online. They decided to try out the free version of Zoom, and after many false starts, they each began to appear on all of their screens.
It was kind of a miracle, as no-one understood how it worked. It took a while for them all to figure out how to turn on their video camera, but eventually, they all figured it out. Even though they couldn’t actually be together, they could see and talk to each other. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that it was better if they stayed on mute and only have one friend talk at a time.
They were surprised when Jesus appeared in the Zoom waiting room without an invite. When he appeared, he stood alone in front of his camera and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Well, they hadn’t been feeling peaceful at all. They had been quite fearful because they couldn’t gather to see Jesus, and then suddenly there he was.
After Jesus bid peace to his friends on-camera and gathered each around their own screens, he stood onscreen with them and showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord on their phones and computer screens.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he virtually 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 online when Jesus came. Thomas didn’t have access to Zoom, nor did he have a Facebook account, nor did he have a way to watch a linked YouTube video of the Zoom gathering. It’s not that he didn’t want to be with his friends, he just wasn’t able to be online when Jesus was online. Thomas missed seeing Jesus when his friends saw Jesus and one wonders if he might have been feeling a bit left out.
So, since they were all in quarantine, Thomas’ friends all texted him on a group text and told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas not trusting what people saw on screens, texted back to his friends, “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.” … in other words, he might as well have said to his friends, “I’m not interested in hearing about what you saw go viral online, I want to see for myself that this isn’t all a projection on your screens…”
A while later there was a roll-out opening of the economy and Jesus’ friends were again in the house church inside of the unlocked doors, and Thomas was with them in person. Although the doors had been shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then Jesus 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 friends, 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.
And so ends my contemporary musings on how Thomas might come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah if Thomas and his friends were walking the Way of Love with Jesus through a pandemic of epic proportions with their smartphones and computers.
It always bothers me that Thomas seems to take a hit for not being with the other disciples when they got to see Jesus first. So, I read those last verses a bit differently. I believe (though I did not see it happen) that as Jesus spoke to Thomas saying… “Have you believed because you have seen me?”… he could easily have been addressing all of the disciples in the room.
All the disciples believed because they could see him. They saw Christ Jesus crucified and then raised from the dead with his gaping wounds still visible. It was unbelievable, how could the Messiah suffer death and then rise again. They had never seen anything like that before.
It wasn’t just Thomas who needed to see to believe, just because he came into the room a little later. All of them were given that consolation from God. As it would come to pass, all of the apostles, except John, would die as Martyrs of the Faith in the years to come.
It’s almost at the end of this story when Jesus speaks directly to us through the ages, we who will take up our crosses and follow him sight unseen along the Way of Love, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We cannot see Jesus, yet the Light of Christ can be seen and felt within us whenever the Love of God rushes in. As believers, we are One in the Body of Christ and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can see Love made manifest through us in Christ.
There’s something else that can’t be seen, that can go viral and spread around the world faster than the darkness… the Love of God. We have no doubt that though Love itself can’t be seen as it passes from person to person, yet the miracle of new life grows in the fruitful and hopeful wake of God’s Love made manifest through us. We are invited to always bring the Light of Christ to a darkened and fearful world. In these days especially, it’s our turn to be the Light.
The Peace of Christ be always with you. There’s no doubt, it’s a peace which passes all understanding.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Do not be worried for anything, but always in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known before God, And the peace of God, who is greater than every mind, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ’s Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
A Prayer for Spiritual Communion
Spiritual communion is a personal devotional that anyone can pray at any time to express their desire to receive Holy Communion at that moment, but in which circumstances impede them from actually receiving Holy Communion. During the days of this pandemic, this is our common prayer and supplication:
Let us pray:
My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving as I proclaim your resurrection. I love you above all things and long for you in my soul. Since I cannot receive you in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and in the life to come. Amen.
For further listening:
We walk by faith, and not by sight;
no gracious words we hear
from Him who spoke as none e’er spoke,
but we believe Him near.
We may not touch His hands and side,
nor follow where He trod;
but in His promise we rejoice
and cry, “My Lord and God!”
Help then, O Lord, our unbelief;
and may our faith abound
to call on You when You are near
and seek where You are found.
That, when our life of faith is done,
in realms of clearer light,
may we behold You as You are,
with full and endless sight.
Author: Henry Alford (1844)