More to the point, the community of faithful with whom we gather at the Eucharist is One and many. As celebrant I love to experience our many-ness in voice, size, posture, age and personality. The Body of Christ, gathered together, brings its fingers, toes and all to celebrate what and Who it is. I think we can pray with even the unusualities of ourselves as we prepare for this weekend after Easter. Though we are unique and not common, we place in common our uniquenesses and allow them to be blessed and shared as we live out what we have taken in, the very Body of Christ. How odd of God to love what’s odd. You too can pray with hands pressed together and check to see if you are blessed with unequal digits. If so, you can still pray with the equally loving God.
There are two gatherings in today’s readings. In the First Reading from Acts of the Apostles, there is a wonderful description of how the early church gathered together, putting their worldly goods to heavenly good, breaking the Bread and celebrating who they knew themselves to be.
We will be hearing from the book of Acts each Sunday for quite a while now. At the center of these readings is always the actions of an expanding group who knew they were inspired by God to inspire life beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and into the far corners of the round world. They tried to do the things which would reflect their name, The Body of Christ.
This First Reading sets up a model or prefigurement of what the Church is and what the Church is to be doing. This early Church was inclusive, generous, bold, suspected, persecuted, and even experienced with disagreement. It grew, because the Holy Spirit formed their personalities and actions to be attractive. They remained together while being distributed.
The Gospel pictures the second gathering, but not together. Yes, the ten were in the same room, but not together. Shame distances and isolates. For fear they were hiding in the same place and for shame they were hiding from each other.
It is into this un-gathering, that Jesus appears in an Easter liturgy. He meets them with a greeting of peace and does that a second time. Jesus then gives them His Body as a gesture of blessing. He completes this first liturgy of today’s Gospel by a rite of forgiveness in which he invites them to either forgive themselves as He forgives them, or retain or hold on to their shame as they might wish.
Thomas eventually shows up and hears, but needs to see. This theme John uses often in his Gospel. (Cf chapter nine) This sets up the second liturgy a week later. They are now gathered together and Jesus makes His second appearance. He begins once more with a greeting of peace and then offers His Body to Thomas who sees and believes that Jesus is, after all, the Christ and Lord. This is such a tender scene. Jesus comes right to the point, right to where He can begin the finding resurrections of those who denied, departed and de-named themselves.
There is this liturgical form within these readings and especially the Gospel. The ten are kind of present when Jesus presents Himself. This is a perfect setting for our personal and liturgical prayer. We are kind of present, but that does not prevent Jesus from breaking through our walls of distraction and preoccupation. If we just show up and give Jesus time, He will offer a peace offering. We will experience the necessity of our walls, falling away and self-analysis becoming less attractive.
When we were novices a bell would ring every twenty minutes reminding or recalling us to the task of morning prayer. The third bell was the one which brought me peace and out of my wondering what the heaven I was supposed to be doing.
Lately I have noticed that the question about what was supposed to be going on has dissolved. I suppose I have had all the brilliant thoughts and consoling insights I will ever have so I have given that all up. Jesus breathed over their chaos and I find myself being available to that same recreative breath. Reception becomes more important than perception. That third bell told us prayer had ended and we’d better get on to chapel and the rest of the day.
Jesus ends this Easter liturgy as He usually ended any intimate encounter. Jesus sent His friends as He had been sent to them. In my house and little room there is not a third bell, nor first or second. I experience the end of prayer as a sense of being sent to the rest of my day on mission. He is sent and so am I. The object of intimacy is fruitfulness. The object of prayer is our being found, blessed, and sent to be a blessing.
I would hope, wish, pray, that my leaving prayer-time sends me to have similar liturgical-meetings where I extend peace, be present to her/him/them in such a way that she/he/they experience peace, gentleness and their own sweet mission.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love is everlasting.” Ps.118
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