Update Third Sunday Easter 2012 Mass and Reflections

Scripture Readings for the Mass are here

Various reflections on the readings are here

Psalm 4

As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.

Various reflections are here


The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,

he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."

But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?

Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.

Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."

And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"

They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,

"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."


Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things."

Image source


There is a popular saying that the trouble with life is that we understand it backwards but have to live it forwards. 

Thinking of the state the disciples were in at the time Jesus appeared to them leaves no room for doubt that they were grieving, bewildered and devastated.

Despite the fact that they had been side by side with Him for three years, they must have been struggling to make sense of everything.

Their uncertainty and disbelief, their raw grief probably made them prickly and hard to touch !

Like so many of the accounts of Jesus immediately after His resurrection today's Gospel confirms the physicality of Jesus.

The Jesus the disciples met after his resurrection was a person whom they saw and heard, a person who they were able to share memories with, a friend who was able to show love and tenderness. They were able to eat a meal together.

Jesus allow himself to be touched and his wounds could be examined. He was recognizable and identifiable as a man who had lived and died and was now risen from the dead., a full realization of his bodied existence is witnessed to several times in different ways by different people in the gospels.

But there was something different about Jesus that  transcended the capabilities of a normal body. The fact that He would appear out of nowhere, enter through walls and closed doors must have been terrifying.

Jesus invited the disciples to do what he invited Thomas to do last Sunday, “Touch me.” and then they had the opportunity to learn the meaning of what his life and death had meant - everything was revealed and the Scriptures they had undoubtedly been arguing over were now at last made clear for them. Wow !!

The physical presence of Jesus made immediate contact with them and made peace with them. He didn't reprimand them for their weakness in faith or doubt.

He didn't criticise them or give them a hard time. 

All Jesus showed them was love,understanding, intimacy and forgiveness.
It may well be the charge and indictment of all of us that the reasons given by many who leave the institutional church is that they cannot see much embodiment of this type of Christ in the lives of many Christians these days. 

I know that this is not always the case but the haemmorhage of people from the church in developed countries are telling indicators that something has to change.

Increasingly at the higher eschalons of clerical culture there is a perceived  failure to connect with many ordinary people at a deep level, a failure to identify needs and hurts , a failure of the imagination of the heart that  is unwilling to recognise or deal with unmet needs for touch and healing, and in the worst cases an arrogance and disdainful attitude that rides rough shod over people's human right to act from conscience. 

The institutional church and all of us as members are struggling these days to ably serve as custodians of Christ's mission. 

We are supposed to be a leaven in the world bringing unity, peace between faiths, not division. The hierarchy demands silence and unquestioning obedience but fails to be gentle or humble in the way it listens ,instructs and tries to understand the people  , nor does it  seem to be able to connect or understand how to speak or listen to a large sector of people who are no longer as docile as the church would wish.

We cannot seem to find safe space for people to falter, and learn from each other without being harshly judged.

There is a prevailing climate of fear and suspicion which is preventing many people from flourishing as either individuals or as a community. 

Institutional religion seems be very oppressive and/or increasingly irrelevant to many people these days.

 If we as a church cannot overcome this and fail to develop more collaborative ways of working with people then we are failing to be the body of Christ.

 But despite all the anxiety and uncertainty one fact remains: The earliest resurrection community that experienced Christ's risen presence have passed the mantle and light of His message through many periods of darkness down the centuries  and there are enough people determined to still keep witnessing to the reality of the risen Christ.
Believing in the resurrection leads to some understanding of what it means to be  forgiven, what it means to be touched and healed in some way by Jesus and to have experienced the invigoration of new life in the Holy Spirit.

To share that message should be simple, not unduly hampered by canon law or heavy handed dogma. We are a generation that should have the hindsight to have learnt from the past ; not to lay excessively heavy burdens on people, not to scapegoat and to be able to admit we do not always have easy answers.

H/T to Fr. Austin Fleming at A Concord Pastor Comments for this short video that reminds me of what it's all about...

Our churches should be compelling places for anyone and everyone to want to enter, a place where they can feel safe, a place of welcome, where listening is deep and where scars of struggles are not repellent, where distress and suffering are acknowledged with sensitivity and held gently and where spaces for silence and contemplation offer peace.

Churches should work hard to make opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation, and where this is not possible at least  we can hope and trust that prayer can be said for us and others.

Just like the early disciples we need places where encounters provide the opportunity to experience "incredulous joy and amazement ", and a shared meal on the table indicates the presence of the risen Jesus among us.

We know the past , we have faith in Jesus here and now and an enduring hope for the future.


Lord, let me be the change you want me to be. 
Even if I am not the light, I can be the spark.

 Now I say to you in conclusion,
life is hard,
at times as hard as crucible steel.
It has its bleak and difficult moments.
Like the ever-flowing waters of the river,
life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.
Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons,
life has the soothing warmth of its summers
and the piercing chill of its winters.
But if one will hold on,
he will discover that God walks with him/her
and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair
to the buoyancy of hope
and transform dark and desolate valleys
into sunlit paths of inner peace. 

— Martin Luther King Jr. – 1963 (Eulogy for the Martyred Children)

 If God is found in our hard times, then all of life, no matter how apparently insignificant or difficult, can open us to God’s work among us.

 To be grateful does not mean repressing our remembered hurts. But as we come to God with our hurts—honestly, not superficially—something life changing can begin slowly to happen. We discover how God is the One who invites us to healing.

 We realize that any dance of celebration must weave both the sorrows and the blessings into a joyful step. 

 I once saw a stonecutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working. 

In my imagination I thought, that rock must be hurting terribly. 

Why does this man wound the rock so much? 

But as I look longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone, looking at me in my mind’s eye and saying, “You foolish man, didn’t you know I had to suffer and thus enter into my glory?” 

The mystery of the dance is that its movements are discovered in the mourning. 

To heal is to let the Holy Spirit call me to dance, to believe again, even amid my pain, that God will orchestrate and guide my life.

— Henri Nouwen from “Turn My Mourning into Dancing
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