Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easter 2 B - Apr 12, 2015

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Reinaldo Martinez-Cubero, n/OHC
Easter 2 B – Sunday, April 12, 2015

Acts 4:32-35
1John 1:1-2: 2
John 20:19-31
Thomas and Christ - by Caravaggio
Locked doors are mentioned twice in today’s gospel lesson. I set out to find some information online about these locked doors, and read somewhere how the etymology of the Greek word used for closed, or locked, or shut was closely linked to the Greek word “ekklesia”. I got together with our Brother Roy, and his Greek Bible, and Greek lexicon. The Greek word is “kleio”.  We dug and dug, but came to the conclusion that “kleio” and “ekklesia” are not really linked. And because God has a sense of humor, that evening I saw a post on facebook that read: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”- Abraham Lincoln. But upon further research, what I did find was the metaphorical usage of the word “kleio” in the Bible: “To obstruct the entrance into the reign of God.” All of a sudden it all became clear to me. That is precisely what was happening to those disciples behind those closed doors in John’s Gospel lesson. It is from what the experience of the resurrection released them, being shut out of the reign of God. They are behind closed doors, surely suffering post-traumatic stress. Their leader has been put to death by the barbarian Roman practice of crucifixion, and buried in a hurry. They fear they may be next, so they’re hiding. And I imagine there are feelings of guilt and remorse. One of them, now gone, betrayed Jesus and turned him to the authorities. All but the youngest fled. Peter, the senior one among them followed at a distance, but when questioned, denied he had ever heard of Jesus. Nevertheless, here they are, gathered together behind closed doors so they can share worship and eat a fellowship meal in remembrance of their teacher.

We can’t know for certain the details of what happened that evening because the story doesn’t tell us, but that worship experience must have been so profound that they saw Jesus, who said: "Peace be with you." He does not condemn them, or even rebuke them. Instead he dissolves their fear. He heals their grief. This is the ascended and glorified Jesus, but he still bears the visible scars of the crucifixion. John’s resurrection story is of the crucified Jesus, who

se glorification came by giving life and love even as his own life was being ripped from him. Jesus shows them his hands, and this reminds us that God "had given all things into his hands" (3: 35). He showed them his side that had been pierced by the Roman soldier after his death, and from which had flowed both blood and water, reminiscent of birth.  This "blood and water" would now give birth to a new community.

The disciples rejoice at "seeing the Lord." In the four gospels, "seeing" is quite often another way of saying "gets it." The disciples “see”. They “get it”. It is through the wounds of Jesus that peace is won. This peace has to do with spiritual welfare, grounded in God, otherwise, it is shallow and short lived. It is an inward peace, but it is not dormant. It is a peace that makes action possible, and so, Jesus issues a command: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." As the disciples have received, so they are to give to others. They are to spread the gift of peace to all who are trapped, as they once were, in grief and fear. “He breathed on them."  The Greek word translated as "breathed" is emphusao.  It is the same word the Septuagint uses in translating Genesis 2: 7:  "And the Lord God...breathed into (Adam's) nostrils the breath of life." Where God breathed life into Adam, Jesus now breathes life into his new community, and in this way grants them a new source of life, the Holy Spirit. This new community is to be characterized by the forgiveness of sins. If sins are not forgiven, they are "retained" within the community, thereby greatly affecting the community's life.

Thomas was not with the group when the disciples saw Jesus. When they tried to tell him what happened to them, he does not accept their witness to an experience he has not had. He will not believe until he has seen the marks of the nails and put his hand into the spear wound on Jesus’ side. Let me propose that ‘Believe’ has quite a different meaning in the gospels from the way it is usually used in religious circles today. According to the North American New Testament scholar, the late Marcus Borg, ‘to believe’ comes from the old English ‘be love’ and is more about love, trust, faithfulness and commitment, than intellectual agreement or approval to a number of propositions. Thomas is not prepared to make his commitment at second hand. He knew what had happened to Jesus on the cross and that Jesus was dead. He wanted to see (to “get it”). And note what he asks to see – the marks of the nails and spear- the wounds

For Thomas ‘belief’ involves identifying with the crucified Jesus in his suffering.

A week later the disciples are still hiding behind closed doors. Jesus appears again, and again he says, "Peace be with you." Then he addresses Thomas. Jesus does not rebuke him, but instead releases Thomas from his uncertainty, and into making a bold confession of faith: "My Lord and my God!" His confession is in effect: I see God in the presence of Jesus; I see the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. He has come to understand that when we see Jesus, we see God. Thomas is now transformed, and through his affirmation of faith, the disciples enter into a new reality- a life where they experience the deep peace of forgiveness and share that peace with others. They are now empowered to proclaim this Good News. They will be recognized by the love they have to give and by the freedom they achieve- freedom that will enable them to give their lives away in love to others. In today’s lesson from Acts, we see these transformed disciples in action.

The peace and love we give one another through Jesus is the peace and love on display on the cross. That is what Thomas sees. The one who was crucified and resurrected is the presence of God among us, and the source of all life. His call to us is to live fully in peace, love, and hope. And we, who have come to faith through the witness of those who wrote the gospels, and the other books of the New Testament, are called to bring that love, peace, and hope even to those who don’t share our particular way of commitment to God.

Most merciful God, help us to let go and let the things that need to die, die, that we may hear and respond to the message of the Resurrection, as Thomas did. Amen

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

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