Sunday 11th April 2021 – Low Sunday
Peace be with you
Scientists tell us that our nervous system must receive and process information about the world outside in order to react, communicate and keep our bodies healthy and safe. Much of this information comes through the sensory organs; the eyes; ears; nose; tongue and skin. It is only when we begin to lose them that we realise how important they are to our daily life and mental wellbeing.
Coming from a medical family where there is a recent history of glaucoma and macular degeneration, I am well aware of the need to visit the opticians annually to ensure that the necessary checks and tests are carried out.
This Sunday the church commemorates the apostle Thomas. He was not present when the risen Christ first appeared to the other disciples that evening. Today’s gospel tells of Thomas’ refusal to believe in the resurrection unless he can touch the wounds of the crucified Christ. Only when the risen Christ appears again a week later and invites Thomas to touch his hands and his side does he confess “Jesus as his Lord and God”.
In the chapter entitled “Questioning” from his book “Seeing God in Art”, Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, refers to a mosaic at Hosios Loukas, Greece made @ 1120 depicting this encounter. Jesus holds his hands open and shows his side so that the wounds can be clearly seen.
Unfortunately, the face of Thomas is sadly damaged so we cannot see it. Most dramatically however Jesus appears against the backdrop of a closed door that is also the shape of a sarcophagus, as though to stress that he has risen from the dead.
The writer goes on to comment that “Thomas was surely right to question the claim of the other disciples ie that they had seen the risen Christ. Questioning is not only a good thing to do, but is essential. The willingness to question is fundamental to religious understanding as well. How can we come to believe something, or believe something with deeper conviction, unless we are willing to probe and question what is claimed to be true?”
Thomas gives us permission to question, to probe, to be honest and to act with integrity. In this we seek to understand, wrestle and hold in tension what it means to follow the risen Christ. Unlike Thomas, we have not had the benefit of seeing the risen Christ or putting our fingers in his side.
Many of us who were present in person or on zoom last week (Easter Sunday) are here again today. Why? What has brought us back? It may partly be due to the five senses which I referred to earlier. In some ways we can still hear, see, touch and taste (though not necessarily smell) something of the risen Christ. Through the weekly Liturgy of the Word and the Sacrament our spiritual lives are nourished and our faith enriched.
What struck me in today’s Gospel were the words “Peace be with you” spoken by the risen Christ. Did you notice how many times he spoke them? Three. What did that say to the disciples, to Thomas and to us?
As we enter into another week may we too know something of that peace.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
Wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
Protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
At the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
Once again into our doors.