2nd Sunday of Easter A (Divine Mercy)

I have always been inspired by the story of that first community of disciples, how “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  They sold everything they had to live together, to give themselves for Christ and to each other.  Of course, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  Who could fail to see the attraction of those first believers? Yes, I have been inspired by their example, but also haunted.  Can we achieve that sort of unity in the complexity of our world today?  Short of you giving me everything you own and all of us moving into the rectory together, how can we shimmer like that fist community?  How can we burn like a beacon to attract others to the life of Christ?

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, I suggest the Gospel gives us three ways to accomplish this, to brighten the path that leads to Christ.  The first is to invite all people to come to a house of peace.  Peace is the chosen word of the resurrected Christ.  He says it twice to his disciples as he mysteriously appears to them beyond the locked doors.  It is the same word he gave to his disciples when they entered the home of another.  This peace is not the rest from all enemies.  It is an active thing.  It is a bond of unity, a knowing that they are beloved.

I know how hard it is for you to get here each week.  Whether it is the Tapia family and their six children, if you are struggling with your own infirmities or simply running against the insane busyness of life, it is not easy to overcome the madness to settle in for an  hour.  But once you get here, don’t you feel like, “AHHH..”  You know it has been worth it.  You know that you can put everything else behind you and focus on what really matters – this is the word you need to hear; this is the bread you need to receive for you were built with both in mind.  And no matter the craziness that will occur from Monday until Saturday evening, no matter the hurt, loss and envy you will experience, this is a peace that cannot be taken away for this is the stuff of eternity.  Of divinity.  Of Christ.  Jesus I trust in you.  Peace that lasts forever and outlasts everything else.

They will also come and see a house of forgiveness.  For Jesus breathed on them and announced, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness has been handed down to the Church through the Holy Spirit so the fount of divine mercy may never run dry.  I am always surprised by people who are turned off by church because they say they see the same people as mass on Sunday sinning on Monday. To which I reply, “I was not aware that you were following me around.”

We are all sinners.  We are all broken.   This place will always be more about healing than perfection.  Look at how Jesus knows he will be recognized. It is not his glorified body they are to look upon, but upon his hands and feet pierced by nails and his side opened by a sword.  They are to know Jesus in his brokenness as he knows us in ours.  Our community must be open to the brokenness of others; our light will only shine if we can share our wounds, confident we will receive only the salve of mercy and not the pain of exploitation. Come and see the Broken Body of Christ, accepted and beloved.

And they will come and see a house of imperfect faith.  There is always room for doubters in this family. Poor Thomas, for his is known as doubting Thomas for his insistence on seeing and prying his hands into the wounds of Christ.  He does not say much else in the Gospel of John.  He says, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” to which Jesus famously replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  But less noticed still is when Jesus finally decides to return to dangerous Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead, it is Thomas who says, “Let us also go to die with him.”  Thomas does not lack courage, he, likes us, suffers from “little faith.”  The faith he had was knocked out on the cross and he is reluctant to believe again.  Have you ever been shaken; felt let down by God?  It is a moment of “little faith.”  One of the great heartbreaks of my life is that so many people feel their faith slipping away and never come to me to talk about it.  If your health was slipping away, you would see a doctor, right?  Yet the ebb of faith is seen as simply shedding unneeded skin when what is lost is so much more.

Look at the example of Thomas.  Yes, he doubts, but does so from within the community and they allow his doubts until Jesus comes again.  If he had left, his doubts would never have been answered.  We must be a place where people are allowed to doubt.  Jesus blesses those who believe without seeing. But in the peace of this Church, this broken and healing church, this doubting and faith shaking but still persisting church, they will see Christ.  They will see Him in our forgiveness, brokenness and peace.  And they will come to believe.

They will always come and see a house of Divine Mercy, for whatever else they were looking for, however, they wanted their questions answered, there is but one answer from God.  Compassion, Love and Mercy.  And they will come to such a house for it is what they, and all of us, were built for.

 

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