Reflection for Sunday – April 24, 2022
Readings: Acts 5: 12-16; Revelations 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz
Have you ever had the experience of feeling more than one emotion at a time? I am thinking of feeling grief when a loved one dies and relief that their suffering is finally at an end, joy for another’s success and sadness because that success might take away from your time with them, hope for a brighter future and guilt for holding back and more. This is the sort of dichotomy I am feeling about this second Sunday of Easter.
We are at the end of the Easter octave, still basking in the glow of resurrection and yet the Church calls this Divine Mercy Sunday, and our Gospel confronts the human reality of curiosity and doubt. I confess to usually ignoring the celebration of Divine Mercy and holding fast to the resurrection experience. However, this year feels different.
After over two years of watching the world struggle with Covid and all that has accompanied that reality and more recently being immersed in the almost 2 month war in the Ukraine, I am struggling with seeing the suffering of our world and holding on to the resurrection at the same time, in the same breath. At Bethany House, where I minister, we keep a list of the names of those individuals killed by violence in the city of Rochester and we pray for them weekly. The list grows almost every week. For every name there are family and friends that will miss their presence in the world from this day forward. Some of those survivors are guests at Bethany House. The suffering world is not just at our doorstep, but it is at our kitchen tables and on our front porches.
The Church gives us the gospel story of Thomas, one of the twelve, who was not with the others when Jesus first appears to them. He is probably numb with grief at the loss of his teacher and mentor. His friends greet him with the story that Jesus has risen from the dead. He is confronted with holding two very powerful emotions at the same time, grief, and joy. It seems that the resulting experience is curiosity and doubt; can what they say really be true? Perhaps that is what we are experiencing today as we endure suffering and resurrection joy. Can what we believe really be true?
I try to imagine what Thomas must have been feeling when he saw Jesus appear in the room. He was probably overcome with confusion and joy all at the same time. If it were me, I would want to pinch myself to see if it were possible. I would feel the tiniest seeds of hope begin to take root.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells the stories of new believers, anxious to understand the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and what this faith means in their own lives. They are seeking healing and wholeness by even walking in the shadow of Peter and the disciples. They were nourishing these seeds of hope and mercy.
The Easter season stretches from now to Pentecost, giving us 50 days to be curious about what our faith in a resurrected Jesus really means to us. We are invited to take the time to ask ourselves if we were Thomas, what proof would we need that Jesus is not dead? For Thomas it was the real wounds that marked his friend’s suffering and death. In this time of such suffering in our local and world realities, what is holding you back from fully embracing a resurrected Savior?
Perhaps it is the real wounds that we are experiencing today. Jesus is inviting us to wipe the tears and hold the hands of those impacted by violence; to feel anger and discouragement at the daily reports of the war, to feel frightened or depressed or alone as more people fall ill from Covid while we struggle to be people of faith. Experiencing and feeling these wounds do not have to have the power to weaken our faith. Instead, believing in the power of the resurrection in the heart of these wounds is where our faith gains strength.
Mercy is compassion, forgiveness, and a desire to relieve suffering. Mercy combined with faith in Jesus who has triumphed over death is invincible. A faith born out of experiencing suffering and being curious enough to question is a faith that is deeper than head knowledge, stretching deep into the heart. This Sunday is more about compassion and bringing relief to the suffering than about confession. What could be stronger? Thomas was right to ask for what he needed. How about you?