|The Second Sunday of Easter
Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19
Speaking of the Resurrection, G. M. Hopkins, S.J., wrote, “Away grief’s grasping joyless days…” And so it is one week after we have renewed our own baptismal vows and have accepted new members into our communities. Perhaps some “joyless” moments have rained on our Easter Lilies and dampened our graceful-dancing spirits.
In days past, those newly baptized wore their white garments through this Second Sunday and perhaps those once-dazzlingly-white robes had some smudges and even stains. Living the lily-white life is not the Christian road. That path has as many potholes as the street outside my house, after this long winter. Those robes are meant to be worn and then rewhitened often in the sacramental baths of the Church.
I recall getting a brand new pair of basketball shoes and how they made me feel I could run faster, jump higher, and stop more quickly than ever I could do with the older sneakers.
The feeling lasted but a short time and I felt betrayed by the false promises of athletic immortality. The newness wore off quicker than the shine and I was reduced to being who I was again with my limits of speed and endurance.
We hear of the excitement of the early Christian community, in today’s First Reading. The Acts of the Apostles is an account of the good things that were done in the Name of the Resurrected One. They performed great signs that God was with them and many were attracted to the “Way.” These early days after Easter we hear of the excitement about the “new Sneakers” of faith and freedom which shod the souls of the early converts. As we will read further, they too are reduced to the holiness of the everyday playing out life’s ages.
John gives us a wonderful picture in today’s reading from the Gospel. The gathering of those who had betrayed Jesus in their own ways during His last hours is full of grasping joyless grief. They are frightened, lost and perhaps regretting they ever tried on His shoes and walked with Him. Into this chaos and alienation steps Jesus to give them peace, mission, and forgiveness. They believe and have been renewed by His having breathed the Spirit again upon the chaos, bringing about the possibility of a new creation.
We hear that Thomas is not in their midst during this first appearance and when he does show up, the others tell him what they had experienced. Jesus had shown them His wounds and so they believed. Their belief had moved them to “re-up” and begin running the race. Thomas is wearing his old shoes of skepticism and so Jesus reappears in order to confirm him as a struggler. He then sees and confesses his famous proclamation, “My Lord and my God.” The early Church began in frail doubtings and imprisoning fears. Jesus appears and says that seeing Him physically is meant to be retold and they are to tell others, more by their actions, that Jesus has risen and is present so as to make believing a way of seeing and living.
The Holy Water fonts are full now and we enter our worship places with rewashable garments. Our new shoes are scuffed and worn into being like the old ones. He appears again in Word and Sacrament to find us, bless us, and mission us to go back to the running and the doing the acts of the Apostles. His love is everlasting, but our human limitations can move us to retire early and regret our Thomas-like doubts.
We are baptized into Christ as a process not a product. The journey takes the grace of time and we wish we had the excitement always of the new, shoes. We are not runners, but walkers and creepers and even stoppers. He does not abandon us to ourselves, because of who He claims us to be. We are of the earth by creation and of the Divine by His Resurrection. Hopkins ends his poem with these words:
“I am all at once what Christ is,
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