2nd Sunday of Easter - Shock and Awe

Aftershocks are very disconcerting. They keep us living on the edge. They give us a radically new outlook on the permanency and security of physical things. They unclutter our lives very swiftly, effectively, and sometimes very painfully. They open our eyes and let us see how fragile we really are. We now begin to celebrate the Fifty days of Easter. We need fifty days because this one event cannot be captured in a single day. Fifty days to let the aftershock of this incredible event vibrate in our minds and hearts and spirits.

thomas caravaggioThe Gospel incident with Thomas highlights this same sense of aftershock and awe.  We are told that immediately following the Resurrection the disciples locked themselves in the upper room and went into hiding.  They were devastated by the death of Jesus. Everything they had worked for the last three years was now destroyed.  They had no one to turn to, nowhere to go, and they were afraid. They felt helpless and hopeless.  And they were angry – angry with Jesus, angry with themselves, and angry with each other.

And then suddenly without them even knowing, the Lord was there among them.  He breathed on them and he wished them his peace.  Without a word he forgave Peter for denying him three times. He embraced Thomas in his doubts.  He didn’t reprimand a single one of them for abandoning him but instead sent them forth to continue his work among God’s people and he promised that he would never abandon them.

This is simply how God works.  And it is the best description of the journey of faith that we have – it doesn’t get any better than this.  The spiritual life is indeed life at whose core is God’s Spirit.  However, it is life and life can sometimes be sloppy.  Sometimes we can really screw it up. Sometimes, there are magnificent victories.  At other times there are terrible failures and tragic defeats.  But none of this – none of this – makes any difference at all to God.

Because, you see, the spiritual journey is not about us.  It has everything to do with God.  In reality, there are no guidelines that we can follow. There are no checklists or rules to which we can refer to reassure ourselves that we are doing everything the right way.  All we have is a promise – the promise of Jesus that he will always be with us and that he will never abandon us.

And because of this promise, our mission to proclaim the good news of salvation to all becomes just a little easier.  We can heal the broken-hearted – because we first have felt the healing power of Christ in our lives. We can forgive those who have sinned against us and against the world, because we first have been forgiven. We can enable others to experience the presence of Christ in their lives, because we first have been found by Him, we are known to him and we have been loved by Him in ways that we could never imagine.  We can become Christ’s light to the world, knowing full well that even the smallest and most insignificant of flames is far more powerful than the darkness itself.

Faith in the resurrection of Jesus means that we continually come to a newer and deeper understanding of what Church really is.  This is especially true now in these extraordinary times of disconnect and fracture. You and I are the Church and we must continually strive to become church more faithfully.  This may require a renewed sense of church and dramatic changes in structures, policies and practices.  But that is not a bad thing.

Our Easter Prayer should be that we might always have the courage to believe the words of Jesus when he tells us that he will always be with us and that he will never abandon us.  If we can believe this then despite the barriers that we place in front of ourselves, despite the walls that we build around ourselves for protection and safety, and despite the doors that we lock and hide behind, suddenly, without our even knowing, the Lord will be present among us.  And he will breathe on us.  And he will wish us his peace.