Speak Lord: Help us see

Thomas.jpgJesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.’

John 14:1-12

The Gospel this Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, reminds us that the Lord restored to the disciples in the first days of the Resurrection, would be ‘taken from them’ again in the Ascension.

The separation is separation of a kind, but it is also true, as the disciples would learn, they would be at one with him, not only at the end of time, or their time here – when they would be at one in heaven. The disciples remain at one with the Lord, when gathered with the Church, even with two or three gathered in his name; and drawn into communion by his real presence in the sacrament of Scripture proclaimed in the assembly; in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist, and in the ministry of the priest, sharing grace in Sacrament and pastoral care.

All this is offered. And yet we can be blind to that real presence of Jesus, cloaked as it is in ritual and symbol and the scandal of particularity; as blind as the disciples were to Jesus’ making the Father visible in the sacrament of himself.

Eventually, Thomas got it! Please God, we will too.

Stained glass. Kings Lynn Minister. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: who are present to me

Silos 11th C Incredulity Thomasc.jpg

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

John 20:19-31

The example of Thomas is set before us in the Gospel read at Mass on the Second Sunday of Easter.

Thomas who doubts: Thomas who stands out against the other disciples; Thomas who is favoured by the Lord; Thomas who responds so generously and fully when he is helped to believe.

How possible is it to give real assent to belief, if one has no personal reason to believe? Indoctrination can take place, of course. We accept all sorts of things without having given them much consideration. But belief surely requires something more.

Few are those who are granted the privilege that Thomas receives, but God offers us persuasive intimations of his presence and love in so many ways.

Thomas responds, eventually, and so generously.

  • What difference does God’s presence to you make to you today?

Plaster cast of Incredulity of Thomas, SIlos: in collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: New life, new hope…

Resurrected Lord, Arles

The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter engages us with evidence for the Resurrection and justification of faith.

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

John 20:19-31

We need to pass ourselves through the valley of the shadow of death, and learn the truth of the Gospel, the Resurrection, to come to a personal relationship with the Risen Jesus. We will not see, touch and so on like Thomas, but the Gospel warns us of that. But we come to know him in our prayer, in our journey, in the stirring of our heart in response to the gift of the Spirit, of his real presence. It’s something we can become more sensitive to over time.

Thomas with his struggles can be our help and guide here too.

And we need him. For when we are exhausted by the mess, and the disappointment, and the hurt, and the loss, it takes something so lift us up again. To heal, restore and help us to trust again, to risk being wrong again.

We’ve all experienced this being stuck, or we will – in bereavement, maybe in the failure of a relationship, of a marriage. The mess may have been a result of our own failing, or someone else’s, or no-one’s fault, just the way that the world is. But it can imprison us in fear, guilt, pain, mess.

Thomas can lead us on that journey beyond, or even more deeply into, the mess, that we might  finally know the truth of Jesus rising from the dead. Thomas  knows what its like, and he will help. So that in time with Thomas we can pray: ‘My Lord and my God’.

Then we will have faith not because we’ve inherited it, only, but because we ourselves have experienced, continue to experience it (at least on a good day!)

Then he will be my Lord not only because he is theirs, or is ours – though he is – but because I have learnt the truth of it, and I respond person to person to my Lord and my God. And I will have that personal commitment to God, from which flows everything else. Which means that God, Catholicism is not a style choice, or a means to an end, but is the heart of me and mine.

The prayer of Thomas: ‘My Lord and my God’ is a powerful prayer, so simple, but all containing. It is like a diamond to carry close in Easter, praying the words, but meditating on them too.

  • What do they mean to me.
  • Are they true?
  • Why are they true?
  • How are they true?

May Thomas, his example and his prayer, deepen faith in all of us.

The risen Lord, Arles. c) 2014, Allen Morris