After the hectic days of Holy Week, the blog has been a bit quiet. But here we are at it again. As a summary of where we left it, in the blog and in the homily we ended up saying that the Resurrection is not only a dogma, or a historical fact, but something that we have to (1) make happen (we said the Resurrection is a mission) and (2) then experience.
As we did before Lent and during Lent, we are looking at the whole body of readings for the Sundays of Easter to come up with a general theme, like a thread that sews all these Sundays together. During Easter, we do not only focus on the gospel, but also on the first readings. They are all from Acts of the Apostles, which is (like) another gospel: the second part of Luke’s gospel, which needs to be understood as a single work with two parts. The theme we propose—the one we will use at Sacred Heart—is Easter: Becoming a Community of the Resurrection. We had originally planned on using the word church, as in becoming a church of the Resurrection, but the Greek word used in the New Testament is Ekklesia, which means community, gathering, social body… even if Bible translators have too hastily translated it into “church” (it is an interesting topic, but outside of our goals, so let me just say that the equivalent word for church exists in Greek and it is only used twice in the New Testament).
If the main idea from the gospel at the Vigil was that we have to make the Resurrection happen—by not being afraid; by understanding the Resurrection as a mission—something that we have to make happen; and by returning to Galilee (deal with the present with the energy of the beginnings)—the readings of the Second Sunday of Easter will remind us that the Resurrection happens in community (and I could have said to a community, through a community, etc.) both for those who were with Jesus, and for us. It is just a new reminder that our faith is personal but not private.
The gospel (John 20:19-31, which is the same for years A, B and C) shows the opposite of a community of the Resurrection—and the text gives so many clues. The disciples are locked down, retreated, for fear of the Jews. It is also a community where there is no unity—when the text says that Thomas was not with them when Jesus first appears it does not mean that he was at that time doing something else and not there. Thomas was not in communion, there is division in that first community, probably about the meaning and the implications of the Resurrection. (Luke uses the story in the road to Emmaus to make the same point. These ‘disciples’ are leaving Jerusalem, abandoning the Community.) A week goes by (and a week may mean a certain period of time, not strictly seven days) and Jesus appears again, and while Thomas is with them this time, they are still locked down, the doors still closed; they are still in fear; and they have not been able to react to the command of Jesus to go out, “sent” once they have received the Holy Spirit.
What is the implication of this gospel for us? A Community (an ecclesia) of the Resurrection is a community without fear, willing to try new things, new ways to make church. A Community of the Resurrection is “out there,” not locked down in our buildings and practices, waiting for people to come to us instead of going out and meeting those who are not with us. A Community of the Resurrection is a community diverse in opinions, political ideologies and backgrounds—but united in purpose: the proclamation, mainly by what we do, that Jesus—a person—is indeed back from the dead.
PS: There will be (if possible) a second post this week. For that, look at the first reading from Acts for Sunday (Acts 2:42-47), and see if you find something a bit surprising, perhaps incoherent, something out of place.