GSC – Easter II 2019
In October 2017 I had the privilege, with a Roman Catholic priest friend of mine, Mons. Francis Jamieson, of leading an ecumenical pilgrimage to holy places in Prague, Krakow and Hungary. One of the highlights was our stay at the Guest House of the Shrine of Jesus the Merciful at Lagiewniki in the suburbs of the beautiful city of Krakow in Poland. At this holy place, one of the most visited Shrines in Poland, is the convent where Sr. Faustina – now Saint Faustina – had a vision of Jesus the Merciful and was told to reproduce the image for the benefit of the faithful.
The image is not unlike that of The Sacred Heart but Jesus the Merciful has his right hand raised in blessing and the left hand, as it were, touching his left side at heart level where the lance of the Roman soldier Longinus had pierced the Body of Jesus to ensure that he was dead before the beginning of the Sabbath. Rays of light, from the image that Faustina saw, both wide and one red the other palest blue represented the blood and the water that flowed from the side of Christ. The portrait in the Basilica at Lagiewniki is very large, with another, about life-sized in the crypt chapel and yet another, the earliest, in the convent chapel next door where St. Faustine had lived.
One could not fail to be moved by the portrait of Jesus the Merciful for it does, very powerfully, proclaim the message of today`s scripture readings the whole emphasis of which is God`s eternal Mercy and our own need to be merciful and compassionate towards others in our own Christian lives.
The Collect for today addresses our Heavenly Father as “God of everlasting mercy...” Our first reading was from Chapter 5 of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke`s sequal to his Gospel telling of the earliest history of the Christian Church in Jerusalem telling of how the Christians used to meet by common consent at the Portico of Solomon where many miracles worked at the hands of the apostles took place so much so that the numbers of faithful greatly increased and even folk from the town beyond Jerusalem brought their sick and those possessed by unclean spirits so that all were cured.
The second reading tells of the Apostle John, the Beloved Disciple, in exile on the island of Patmos for having preached God`s word and having witnessed for Jesus found himself possessed of the Holy Spirit and privileged to have a vision of the seven golden lampstands surrounding “a figure like the Son of man dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle”. The effect was that St. John fell at the feet of the Lord in a faint but that the Lord touch hih his right hand saying, “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.` The result is that St. John writes the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse – a mystical writing which even foretells the Last Things.
However, the heart of our thoughts and meditations must be what we read in those thirteen verses from St. John`s Gospel chapter 20, verses 19-31. We read of Jesus appearing in the evening of the day of the Lord`s Resurrection to His disciples in the Upper Room on Mount Zion where they had locked themselves in, out of fear of being subjected to the same fate as Jesus Himself. Judas had already gone and Thomas, for whatever reason, was NOT present with them. The door were closed but yet the Lord came and stood in the middle of them and gave the tradition Jewish greeting of fellowship: “Shalom” “Peace be with you.” He then commissions them, `As the Fther sent me, so am I sending you,` He then proceeded to breathe on them saying, `Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.` This gift was passed down by the apostles upon all whom they ordained so that bishops and priests today likewise have the `power of the keys` - the authority to pronounce God`s forgiveness of sin or, indeed, to withhold such forgiveness. It is one of the great privileges and also burdens of the priesthood.
John goes on to tell us that Thomas was not with them on that First Easter Evening and when they told him, after his return that they had seen the Lord, he would not believe them and we all know the story of wanting to put his fingers into the wounds in the hands and his hand into the Lord`s side. Well, of course, just exactly this octave night of the Lord`s first appearance in the Upper Room on that First Easter night so the Lord appeared again. As before the doors werte closed but Jesus appeared and stood among them. As before the usual greeting cam from His lips, `Peace be with you,` and then, of course, he spoke to the Doubter – Thomas, `Put yiur finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.` Thomas is early overome for he replied, `My Lord and my God!` Jesus responds with those firm yet loving words to Thomas:
`You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yets believe.` There is such hope for the likes of you and me and all, indeed who have will accept the saving love of Jesus.
Remember the Season of Easter and today is only day 8 is 50days long and a season of wonderful Joy and rejoicing. Alleluia!