Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
but we wonder what those disciples are thinking.
A week later they are back in the house.
Back in that upper room
with the doors shut.
Maybe they are still afraid.
Maybe they are utterly exhausted --
the Passion, to say nothing of the resurrection,
had taken every ounce of energy out of them.
It could be that they have decidedly chosen to be there.
Trying to figure out what
the week before,
when they were "sent."
And what precisely
this breath he breathed on them is.
It's not clear if they gathered
because they thought
Jesus might show up again,
if Jesus might put Thomas' concerns to rest.
I imagine the disciples hoped, longed for Jesus
to come among them
to see him again and get some answers to their questions,
and to satisfy Thomas,
who had been bugging them for a good long week.
No one really says as much,
but certainly Saint John places great emphasis
in his Gospel
on the longing
and on the fulfillment of that longing.
Exactly why Saint John places such emphasis
is a bit puzzling.
More puzzling still is why the church
always finds itself sitting with Thomas
the second Sunday of Easter.
And why we can't seem to shake the
misconceived and misleading notion
that Thomas is a so-called doubter.
All of this to say,
there is something much more important
than what we might observe on the surface
when Jesus appears again this day.
If, in the beginning, Saint John's Gospel begins
with echoes of creation β
begins with the spirit-breath that hovers over the waters,
begins with light that shines in darkness
and then continues with that spirit-breath and those waters,
continues with the same light shining in darkness β
begins and continues throughout the Gospel β
from Nicodemus being born with water and the spirit
in the middle of the night
to the water of the woman at the well
in the light of high noon,
to Lazarus coming out into light
with a great gust from a death-darkened tomb β
certainly this breath of the Holy Spirit,
received as sun set the week before
would have been enough
to close out Saint John's Gospel,
would have been reason
to say nothing more of Word made flesh,
reason never again to have need of gathering together.
Yet, Saint John does not end there.
He goes on.
Tells us those
gathered once again in that upper-room,
this time with the one who had not been present before,
and that Jesus comes among them,
and greets them in peace,
and shows them his wounded
hands and feet and side.
the light the darkness does not overcome,
and the life-giving breath that comes from the very mouth of God
is not finished;
is not finished until
β well, that's the point β
It is not finished.
The ways of death.
They are finished.
They died on a cross.
But the ways of light and life.
Renewing waters and invigorating breath.
They are still ongoing.
Still being created.
As in the beginning,
the new creation is just getting under way.
Getting under way
not simply with those to whom Jesus first appeared
that Easter day.
But those to whom he appeared
one week later.
And one week after that.
And all these days
and millennia since.
The new creation getting underway with those
still gathered by that same spirit-breath
hovering over those very same life-giving waters;
still gathered at table.
Each of us asking the question Thomas' asked his companions:
"How can we see the Lord?"
Is that a question of doubt?
No, Saint John tell us.
For if, "Alleluia, Christ is risen,"
how could we not but ask,
β insist, really β
when and where
we might behold such glory!
is not of matter of doubt,
but a matter of Easter faith.
To make clear the desire to behold the resurrected Christ,
the first born of the new creation,
is a matter of Easter faith is precisely why Saint John writes on.
Writes on with the most profound,
if not a bit surprising,
The resurrected Christ comes once again among
this crowd brimming with the holy-spirit,
swimming in the waters of new life,
and feasting at table.
The resurrected Christ
comes among these of God's new creation,
comes among us wounded.
By the design of God's great love,
the resurrected body of Christ
for those disciples,
for Saint Thomas,
for all of us of God's new creation
present to see and to touch in God's new creation
Saint Thomas asks our question:
"how can we see the resurrected Lord;
see the risen Christ, even today?"
And God gives us the answer,
as God has been giving it to them,
giving it to us
from the very beginning,
and all along the way:
The one who knelt to wash wounded feet.
The one who gave his life for his friends and for his betrayer.
The one who came among them in that upper room.
And breathed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So that we might see in the wounds of the body of Christ,
not the way of death,
but the way of life;
not the way of darkness,
but light that darkness does not overcome.
Make no mistake about it,
that cross killed Christ Jesus.
But it also made him,
and makes us live.
And the gift of the resurrection is that
the wounded-ness of the body of Christ,
is precisely where God's new creation is taking
With this spirit-breath that first hovered over those waters.
And now hovers over all who have known those
life-giving waters, too.
Saint John writes on
not simply so that we might believe,
but that we live.
Live as the resurrected body of Christ for the sake of the world.
That's been Saint John's rationale from the beginning,
when Jesus first talked of being lifted high on the cross:
"For God did not come into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
All along the road
from Galilee to Jerusalem,
from manger to cross,
from village to city,
from age to age,
the very body of Christ
gathers the brokenness and the wounded-ness around us.
To wash it.
To feed it.
To forgive it.
To mend it.
Not for our own sake,
but for others.
That's the mystery, the joy of the resurrection.
No wonder many in our society call it foolish.
Tell us such life is impossible.
Such concern for enemies is misplaced.
That our care for society will drain us β
better to get what you can and move on.
But, it turns out,
the wounds of others,
is what being "sent," is really all about.
It is not simply that
"they will know you are my disciples by your love."
But that the world needs
β as Saint Thomas demanded β
needs the body of Christ,
and we are this body,
for this world.
Its not about us being tended to by Jesus.
Its not about Thomas having his doubts met.
No, by beholding and caring for one another β wounded β
we are roused from fear.
We receive new energy in our emptiness.
We are drawn together when it is so easy to be pulled apart.
We live in faith.
Faith toward God.
And faith toward one another.
Sharing in God's ongoing new creation,
as in the beginning,
now and always,
in and with and as the body of Christ
wounded and insisting on the Easter promise
for the sake of the world:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 3, 2016 - Morning Masses
Saint John 20:19-31