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This Sunday's Programme

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2nd Sunday Easter C

Sunday 24th April 2022

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 20: 19-31

On the evening of that first day, the disciples had locked themselves away in fear of the Jews. Then Jesus just came and stood in their midst saying: ‘Peace to you!’ As he said this he stretched out both his hands to show his wounds and he also showed them his side. The disciples were overwhelmed with joy on seeing the Lord. Again he said to them: ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I send you.’ Then he breathed on them saying: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive someone’s sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive, they are unforgiven.’

Thomas the Twin, one of the disciples, wasn’t there with them that night when Jesus came. When they told him: ‘We have seen the Lord!’ he said: ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and can thrust my finger where those nails were, and unless I can thrust my hand into his side, I refuse to believe!’

A week later, they were together in the house and Thomas was with them. Jesus came into their midst, again through locked doors, and said: ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas. ‘Here, come, bring your finger, see, here, are the marks! Bring your hand, thrust it into my side! Do not be unbelieving but believe!’ Thomas answered: ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus answered: ‘Because you’ve seen me, you believe. God blesses those who, without seeing, still believe.’

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples but they haven’t been written down in this book. These were written down so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, by believing, have life in his name.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 117: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Let all the people say:
God’s love is forever.
Let all the priests say:
God’s love is forever.
Let all revering God say:
God’s love is forever.

I was pushed, shoved, falling
but God helped me.
God is my strength, my song,
salvation to me.
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in tents of the righteous.

The stone rejected by the builders
now holds the building together.
God did this
and we marvel to see it.
God made this day
so let us rejoice and celebrate.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Lord God, your Son Jesus truly entered into the sin and suffering of our world and through his love transformed them. May he breathe upon us his Holy Spirit that we may truly witness to his forgiveness in our world. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This Sunday’s Gospel, the second half of chapter 20, is the conclusion of the Gospel of John – chapter 21 is an addition. In this Chapter 20, we have the 4 stories of faith in the Risen Jesus. Firstly, there is the Beloved Disciple, who believes when he sees the burial clothes. Then, there is Mary Magdalene who believes when Jesus calls her by name. She desires to cling to him but Jesus sends her to preach to his disciples. This Sunday’s Gospel tells of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples and then eight days later to Thomas.

Fear has the disciples locked away. Jesus, not constrained by doors, comes among them and in showing his hands and side ‘proves’ that he really is the one whom they had known and loved, and who had died. As with all the Resurrection Stories, Jesus is shown as the same person the disciples had known but he is not confined by materiality. He is who he was but much more.

Jesus appears to the ‘disciples’ – no numbers or names are given. In these few short verses his words and actions recall the major themes of the Last Discourse. He repeatedly offers ‘Peace’, he states that as the Father sent him, they are now being sent out in turn by Jesus into the world. In other words, the relationship they have with him is to mirror his relationship with the Father. To fulfil that mission, he breathes on them the Holy Spirit. This is the Johannine Pentecost. The distinctive power given by the Spirit is in relation to sins. Here ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ sends the disciples into the world to deal with sin: they will offer forgiveness to those who come into the light. Those who refuse to believe will have the sinfulness of their lives revealed by the light of the faith of believers.

One disciple is not there – Thomas. The disciples witness to him but he refuses to believe, unless Jesus fulfils his criteria. Twice, already, in this Gospel, Thomas’ capacity for misunderstanding has been used by Jesus to reveal a deeper truth. Confronted with the wounds he demanded, Thomas gives the final and supreme title of this Gospel to Jesus: ‘My Lord and my God!’ This is the climax of the narrative. Now Jesus calls ‘blessed’ all the readers and hearers of the Gospel, who have never seen him but who still believe because of the witness of his fragile, but faith-filled and joyful community.

On that note, the author turns to all his readers, and to us, offering his reasons for writing. What he revealed concerning the Word of God in the Prologue and through the many signs of the Gospel has truly been fulfilled. We, who have read about or heard of the journey of Jesus through this world, are invited to belief and through belief to the fullness of life.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

In the midst of this Sunday’s Gospel there is a Greek literary construction that often gets passed over because it seems, well, so ordinary. But John uses this construction at crucial places in his Gospel and when he does, I think, he is giving the core of his revelation of the love of God in our lives. The construction is ‘just as…so’. Earlier in the Gospel we had, ‘As …I draw life from the Father so whoever eats me will also draw life from me’ (Jn 6:57). We also had ‘I have loved you just as the Father has loved me.’ (Jn 15:9) See also Jn 10:15 and 17:18 quoted below for this construction. So when we hear his words, ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’ between his greeting of ‘Peace’ and the breathing of the Holy Spirit upon them, we know we are hearing something deep and intimate from the life of God. Christianity isn’t about living good, moral upright lives. It is about living the life of God, the inner life of the Trinity in our lives. This is where we differ from all the other religions. God has taken us right into the heart of the Divinity and invited us to live our life with the triune God.

It is so hard for us to get our minds and hearts around this but in this final injunction with this construction we see how we are to come to some understanding. As we are sent into the world, with nothing but ourselves to preach our faith, we discover that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the power, and the power alone, by which we can do this. In the midst of our messy, broken world as we seek to offer it the Word of God, we will discover that we are also living in the midst of God.

Jn 10:15 “I know my own and my own know me just as the Father knows me and I know my Father.”

Jn 17:18 “As you sent me into the world so I sent them into the world.”

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

When I hear, ‘I don’t go to church but I am a spiritual person,’ I have to bite my tongue and not ask, ‘What have you got against the body?’ I think the religious ideal of the above ‘spiritual’ person is of calm, serenity and tranquil mysticism. Our Christian faith doesn’t offer us that. Not only did the Son of God take on our humanity, he embraced our sin, suffering – the messiness of human life. He carries the scars of his encounter with us beyond the grave…as badges of honour that show the power of divine love overcoming all that is worst in humanity. When he first appears to his disciples offering “Peace” he shows his scars as though saying, “You can trust this peace as it was gained through this.”

Thomas was onto something when he demanded to feel, to touch these wounds and Jesus kept him up to those demands when he told him to thrust his hand into his side. Yes, that sounds grotesque as this painting of Carravogio (click red text) so well shows. It doesn’t end there for Thomas, with Jesus’ injunction to him to stop doubting and believe. Rather he has to enter into his own woundedness in his life as a disciple. Tradition tells us that he was martyred preaching the Gospel in India.

We, too, have our wounds and these are a privileged way for us to enter into the life of God. In this midst of our mess, our bodies, yes, even our sinfulness, Jesus comes making us Temples of the Holy Spirit. Then we can come to treasure our wounds as we, too, will bear them as badges of honour in the next life. For the present though, we can face the failures and tragedies of our life, especially when helped by others. This is one of the reasons I go to Church. There I find people struggling in the midst of sin and failure, looking to the love of God to console and fulfil them. We may not be up to much in human eyes but we are, in truth, the Holy People of God. This is our mysticism.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Art Works

  • The following paintings are all of Jesus’ meeting with Thomas. Caravaggio’s paintings (click red text) are often confronting. This points to the reality of Christ’s suffering.
  • In this painting by Guercino (click red text) look of love that Jesus bestows on Thomas
  • This 15th Century Russian icon (click red text) is stylised to invite to look beyond the scene into the deeper reality of what Jesus was revealing to Thomas.
  • This painting is by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese (click red text) a Malaysian Christian Artist. If you click the Up button you will enter into a gallery of work on biblical themes which is well work the visit.

Movies

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Quest to destroy the Ring only succeeds because the faith the various characters have in each other.
  • Da Only after his father’s death, does Charlie appreciate the complexity and richness of his love.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

Peace is Jesus’ Easter to gift to us. Being the first fruit of his Paschal Mystery, it is a peace different from what the world calls peace – calm, tranquillity, absence of conflict. No, Jesus’ peace is something vigorous and strong that enables us to bring the grace of God into all the situations of our life.

As you go through this week, mull over how the Peace of Jesus could transform the various situations of your life.

  • in marriage
  • in family
  • at work
  • in the chores you have to do
  • in what happens when you drive, shop, wait for someone.

As you do these things, ask Jesus to come and stand among you with the victory of his love.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

We all have our moments of doubt and scepticism. Thomas’ resulted in a deeper faith and insight into the person of Jesus. In this meditation, we will show Jesus our doubts and see what revelation he offers us.

Sit quietly with your God. Affirm the love that has been offered to you in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

When you are at rest in that love, open your mind and heart to the various doubts that may disturb you. Continuing to rest in God’s love, chose one doubt and draw out its implications. Offer this to Jesus and ask him what this doubt can teach you about the mystery of God’s love and revelation.

Sitting quietly, see how God could view that doubt. Can you think of people you could talk to, books you could read that would help you explore its meaning? Do not be afraid of the doubt: Jesus himself is the Truth and he can use it to led you to deeper love and trust.

Ask God for wisdom and guidance.

Rest in the love of your God.

Suggestions for the Programme

The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.

DAILY PRAYER

Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Our Father
Prayer

Or

Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
Psalm
Our Father

PRAYER

Staff Prayer
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.

Example
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Reflection
Invitation for share reflections
Our Father
Prayer

Another Example
Hymn
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
Psalm
Our Father
Prayer

  • Glory in the Cross by Dan Schutte
  • I Have Seen the Lord by Bob Hurd
  • I know that my Redeemer lives by Scott Soper
  • Alleluia! Sing to Jesus by William C. Dix & Rowland H. Pritchard

The beggar comes at mealtimes

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at table. Mk 16:14

The door locked, we’re mouthing Passover
lamb scrapes. James raises a cup
of therapeutic wine. Before we drink,
a light so intense we gasp, like stepping
off a cliff, or the rush of mad love.
The master we saw die naked
two days ago, now beside the bread
crusts and dirty dishes, presto,
garbed in white brighter than the sun, hands
outstretched for bread crumbs like a beggar.

He always come when meat and Esau’s
mess of pottage are in the table,
as though banqueting in paradise
on manna the archangels baked
is too gauzy, table talk too expurgated.
Up there no biblical bickering,
no one filches drachmas from the purse.
No one in the boat doubts when waters rage
or asks for resurrections from the dead.
Above, no brassy sons bring pushy
mothers to grab the thrones beside the king.
The cock need not crow.

Why then does he come?
Mercy hungers for our treacheries.

From God Drops and Loses Things
by Kilian McDonnell
Published by St John’s University Press, 2009.
Used with kind permission.
Copyright: The Order of St Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.