Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 11 April 2010

Holy Trinity Church, Brook Green

Holy Trinity Church, Brook Green

The little band of disciples met in an upper room in Jerusalem.  We read that the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.  But they were Jews themselves, so we ought to read this as fear of public opinion, and also fear of the unknown.  Jesus had died on the cross.  They were trying to digest the news brought by Mary Magdalene, that the tomb was empty and she had seen the risen Lord.  While they tried to understand this, they kept the doors shut.  We should remember those locked doors at the present time.  There is so much criticism of the Catholic Church, some of it justified, some of it not justified.  The natural temptation is to shut the doors and adopt a fortress mentality, out of fear of public opinion.  But Christ the risen Lord is still with us (and all Christian people) and he challenges us to engage with the world and not hide away.  He is our confidence and our hope.

Next we remember his first words to the startled disciples:  ‘Peace be with you.’  Not words of revenge.  Not words of rebuke to those who fled or even (like St Peter) denied ever knowing him.  No:  his first words are an assurance of peace, and this will be the pattern for other resurrection appearances also.  Christ breaks the cycle of revenge and retaliation.  He calls us to be a people of peace.

Then he shows them his hands and his side.  This is doubly significant.  First, we may note that the wounds have the effect of establishing his personal continuity.  This is the one who was nailed to the cross and stabbed in the ribcage by a soldier wielding a lance.  There can be doubt that this is Jesus, even although he has passed through death, so to speak.  It is a reminder to us that our resurrection hope is similarly that we and those we love in all our uniqueness will be taken into eternal life.  Our personhood is not obliterated by death and resurrection, but fulfilled.  There is another reason why the wounds are significant.  Although they are marked on his body, they are no longer a source of suffering.  In that eternal realm there is not only peace, but healing.  No wonder we think of it as a place of joy.  We may carry (who knows?) the memory of our bruises, but they will hurt no longer.

Jesus sends them out back into the world.  I wonder how this felt?  They had glimpsed the power and possibility of eternity, and perhaps, like the disciples on the mount of transfiguration, they would have preferred to stay with the warm memory and treasured the moment of awe that had been their privilege.  But we cannot earn heaven by short-changing this world.  Our first reading shows the disciples as sources of healing.  Our second reading depicts, in symbol and images, the young Church being strengthened during a time of persecution in the Roman empire.  These are the kinds of tasks to which Christians are still called today.  To speak words of peace, after the example of Christ; to bring healing; and to strengthen one another in our engagement with the reality of the world – this is our task and our challenge, and we cannot do it behind locked doors but must go out in the power of the Spirit.
Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.
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