Fr Jordan presided and Simon Green preached at the 10am Mass. The Gospel reading was taken from John 20: 19–31.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
People write to preserve memories or communicate messages. Some writings and inscriptions, such as laws, history, scripture, etc, have authority. Regarding what to write on an inscription on the cross, Pilate has the authority: “What I have written I have written” (in three languages!). However, neither the inscription of the so-called King of the Jews nor the self-proclaimed King of the Jews represent who Jesus is (John 19:19–21). A hero’s name and his achievements can be engraved on the monument of his tomb. One could read John’s writing in the Gospel in the way one reads such an inscription, as a way of immortalizing his life— perhaps a way to write Easter in a Western consumerist culture.
However on the second Sunday of Easter, what is written in John’s Gospel calls our attention to something different than just a hero’s glory. It wants us to believe that he is risen again. The problem is that almost all of us have never seen him.
We can hear the accounts, but we were not really there. We did not see and touch and experience it ourselves.
“You have to see it to believe it!” Or ‘you had to be there’ are phrases we use all the time in a variety of situations.
Sometimes we might see a film or a theatre piece and as much as we try to describe the wonderment, or the emotions, or the grandeur, we seem to be lost for words and give up. We give up and utter “You have to see it to believe it.” Whatever this thing is, it just cannot be described by words, it has to be experienced. And that is at the heart of today’s Gospel.
Poor old Thomas has got a bad rap over the years. He is portrayed as the ‘doubter’ the weakened disciple who can’t take the disciples on their word, he has to experience it. He has to experience it like all the other disciples. Mary Magdalene as you will remember saw the empty tomb, but she did not believe until the risen Christ appeared and spoke to her directly, personally.
Then, when she told the disciples about her encounter “I have seen the Lord”, they dismissed her words, because they had not seen for themselves, and locked themselves in a room to hide. When, on Easter evening, Jesus, did appear in the dark corner to which they had retreated, he showed them his hands and his side, and it was only then that all the disciples rejoiced.
So Thomas was not the only one to have doubts when merely hearing about the resurrection appearances. Like the other characters in the story he wanted to see for himself “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 the side, I will not believe.
We are not told if Thomas took Jesus up on his offer of tangible demonstration of his existence. What we do know is that Thomas’s response to that offer – “My Lord and my God” - is one of the strongest declarations of faith recorded in the New Testament. Perhaps it was enough for Thomas to know that Jesus cared enough to give him what he needed, that Jesus did not despise his doubt.
Perhaps that was enough for Thomas to see the risen Christ for who he is and address him with reverence and fear.
So how blessed are we, we who have not seen the risen Christ ourselves yet believe. We can often be harsh on non-believers expecting them to believe as we do on the on evidence given. Many people find the idea of faith in the resurrection as a rather extraordinary leap in the modern world. Perhaps sometimes we need to listen to their concerns, invest our time in knowing how they tick, and meeting them where they are.
Jesus did not set up obstacles by expecting his followers to perform acts of trust that seemed beyond them. He was, and is, in the business of meeting people where they are. He is like a good doctor, in that he does not give the same prescription to everyone. Instead, he approaches his followers in different ways because, after all, our experiences are different and our approaches to life are different. Perhaps that’s why we have so many denominations and different expressions even within our own church.
The call upon the disciples and the call upon us on meeting the risen Christ is the same. We are not to dwell too long in the upper room, but to step out into the world. It’s not an easy world for a band of people who believe in something as audacious as the resurrection, but it is a world that seeks, that longs, that hurts.
I believe strongly that God loves all people, calls all people, black, white, poor, rich, gay, straight, good, bad, those who doubt and deny, and those who are 100% certain. The invitation is the same, come, see, touch, know that I am the resurrected Lord, for I stand among you, whoever you may be.
For John’s description today invites us to see the life Jesus has given to the world in the midst of wounds, pains, and traumas. John’s story goes on to recount that the disciples return home to Galilee again. They once again fail to see him (21:4, 12), but most significantly, the risen Christ appears to them again. Then, John “writes” the resurrection message of comfort and peace in and for the troubled and wounded hearts of her or his people Today—and tomorrow—our pain and sorrow may turn into joy.