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This Sunday's Programme

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2nd Sunday Easter

Sunday 7th April 2024

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

My grandfather had a brutal alcoholic father. The effect on him lasted till he died: by the age of 14 he was a committed pacifist. It moulded how he acted as a parent, as a worker, as a citizen. He became a man of great dignity and influence. His response to suffering and injustice shows me what it means when Jesus returns carrying the scars of his brutal and unjust death.

In our society there seems to be two extremes offered on how we should deal with our suffering. The cry to “Get over it” tells us to ignore our pain and is often given to those whose tendency is to play the victim, finding even greater ongoing depths in their pain. Neither is Christ’s response. When he comes, first to his disciples, revealing his wounds, and later to Thomas inviting him to thrust his hands into those wounds, Jesus is affirming not only his suffering but also the love that has dealt with that suffering. God has been with us and is still with us in the wild and raw places of hatred, sin and suffering.

Now, it is for us to invite God into our own wild and raw places of sin and pain. When life’s trials render us helpless, when failure fills our lives, all we can do is to come before our Saviour, revealing our wounds, asking, no, demanding, that he thrust his healing hands into them and crying ‘My Lord and my God!”.

 

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 the Risen Jesus comes to his disciples huddled in the upper room, he gives them three gifts: peace, the Holy Spirit and the power to deal with sin. To deal with sin we need desperately the discernment of the Holy Spirit. It is relatively easy to forgive someone contrite of a clear wrong. We may even ‘forget’ the offence. The challenge comes in working out how to forgive in the myriad of complex relationships in which we find ourselves. How are we to forgive
– the child or adolescent who clearly needs to learn the consequences of their behaviour in order to mature?
– the older person set in negative ways that cannot be condoned?
– the psychiatrically ill person who causes trauma in the lives of the people around?
– the evil, destructive person who seems to delight in causing pain and destruction?

The list can go on and you will well be able to able to include your own version of a person whose behaviour cannot be condoned even as we struggle to forgive. To our dismay, there are no pat answers. So often the problem is that we cannot imagine how to act to bring peace and healing to the situation and the people concerned. In a very real sense we have to embrace our woundedness, hold out our scares to the Risen Christ and plead for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, infuse our hearts, inspire our loving so that we may be lead into the mysterious ways of peace.

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

Last year at this site we offered links to paintings showing the encounter between Jesus and Thomas.  This year’s recommendations focus on Jesus’ encounter with all the disciples.

– This painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna shows the risen Jesus coming through closed doors.

Christ appears to his Disciples  by William Hatherall.

–  Jesus appears to his Disciples by Imre Morocz

 

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

Jesus came into the midst of his disciples when they least expected it – into the midst of their fear, pain and failure.  As you go through this week, notice the times when Jesus comes into your midst, especially those times when you least expect him.

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.

As you rest, recall some of the wounds that you carry in your life. Focus on one wound and bring it before Jesus and ask him to place his hands within that wound. As he places his hands there ask for healing and faith to believe that God’s love is with you in your suffering. Rest with those hands upon your pain.

Rest in the love of your God