So sorry for the lateness of the homily, but strep throat “found” me this weekend which I finally had diagnosed on Monday at Urgent Care and am now laying low, sleeping lots and taking my medicine. In between naps, I wanted to get my homily out to you all–wishing you all the best, Pastor Kathy.
My friends, just as it takes us at least six weeks to prepare for the awesome feast of Easter, it takes that long as well to fully celebrate the mystery of the resurrection. We can’t fully understand this event and that is why we call it “a mystery.”
At the Easter Vigil, I shared a couple Scripture passages—that of Mary of Magdala meeting Jesus in the garden and Jesus walking with disciples on the way to Emmaus to highlight the fact that resurrection is not the same as resuscitation. A definite difference in how a person looks apparently happens in a resurrected form—or else Mary and the disciples would have known Jesus on first sight. Scripture tells us that Mary only knew Jesus when he said “her name” and that the disciples only recognized him in “the breaking of the bread.” This is a mystery that we can only hope, one day, to understand.
The important thing for each of us to hold onto is that Jesus came to show us the way—not only how to live and to love, but how to die and to rise one day. So much of this we take on faith because we can’t fully understand, but part of the joy we should feel through this season is the hope that this life is not the end.
Jesus told the apostles, and we are ultimately included in this, that he is going to prepare a place for us of which we simply can’t imagine—also a mystery! None of us can imagine what this will be and sometimes, I am more inclined to think that heaven is not so much a place as it is a state of heart and mind.
Perhaps we enter what we call heaven after we have journeyed through this life striving to become our best selves; when our mind and heart is set on “feeling the joy” only when others—all others, can know the same joy, knowing the happiness of family nearby, caring for one another, only when others, all others, know that same happiness; living in peace with all or most of our needs met, only when others in the world, all others, live in that same peace.
The Easter Scriptures, in the days and weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, with the apostles fully filled with the Spirit of Jesus, are reported to have shown great powers to heal—a mere shadow of one of them passing over an affected person brought a cure.
We can look at these cures as pure power, or we can see them as a result of great faith, or probably, a bit of both. Jesus was always a bit disappointed when people came to him simply for a physical cure—when they weren’t willing to see his mission about anything more. Of course, he understood and had mercy and compassion—but I think he really was about changing people’s hearts.
The reading from Acts today records the fact that “through the hands of the Apostles, many signs and wonders occurred among the people.” This statement I’d like to apply to what I just said above—mainly that the power that came to the first apostles and disciples was, I believe, always meant to be about more than curing physical ailments. Through their hands, through our hands, many signs and wonders can and do occur. We have the power of physical touch—a calming hand; the ability to physically care for others, to be with them in their need—cook a meal, pick up some groceries, visit a shut-in, take some food to a neighbor, offer a prayer. I believe we sell ourselves short when we consider these Scriptures speaking of signs and wonders. Each of us comes upon needs each and every day and we simply need to respond.
The reading from Revelation speaking to John the Apostle and Evangelist on the island of Patmos carries the simple message that was always on Jesus’ lips throughout his ministry, “Don’t be afraid!” If we forget most of what we read in Scripture; we really only need remember that our brother Jesus was always about caring for our needs, loving us and asking us to love others. In addition to the words imploring us to, “not be afraid,” Jesus’ other most familiar words coming our way, were, “Peace be with you.” In today’s gospel, we hear twice a wish for peace.
Jesus truly understood his apostles’ fear—he was telling them some seriously profound things—asking them to stretch their faith to its greatest degree. Faith is truly central in these post resurrection days. Nothing meaningful can happen without it!
Today’s gospel zeroes in on the apostle Thomas’ lack of faith. It isn’t enough that his brothers in ministry have testified that, “We have seen Jesus!”—he isn’t going to believe until he can see with his own eyes, touch Jesus with his own hands! We have to wonder what was going on for Thomas—there must have been a great deal of fear holding him back.
We can compare his lack of faith with Mary of Magdala’s all-encompassing faith. One senses that she was someone who had been so touched, influenced, that is, by Jesus and his love and care for the world, that she simply could not, but, believe.
So, in the end, my friends; I think the question that each of us must face during this Easter Season is, “Do we believe?” And if we do, what are we going to do about it?! Amen? Amen!