Acts 5: 12-16; Rev 1: 9-11, 12-13, 17-19; John 20: 19-31
If there is one thing we can take from the Easter readings, not only last week, but today with Thomas as well as next Sunday, it’s that, in order to receive God’s grace, mercy, love, whatever way you want to describe it, there must be a readiness on the part of the disciples and us. Otherwise we simply spend our lives locked, where the disciples are today, in the upper room. We don’t make it easy on God and we’re going to hold on tight often until we’re pushed to the edge. That goes for me, for you, as community, and for the disciples.
They, and we, hold on tight to many things. They’re caught up in fear, even paralyzed by it. They’re questioning and doubting what all of this has meant, if anything, this despite the fact that he has already appeared to them once! They’re caught up in their grief. Their grief is strong in the loss of their friend but also in the way they think. Jesus and the disciples always seemed to live on two different planes. He was out healing, curing, and even raising people from the dead! But they never thought that’s who he was or what they wanted of Jesus or God and so the grief runs deep for them. They thought he should be someone who would be a revolutionary who would overturn the Roman government and someone who should overturn the religious leaders of that time. But he was never that! But they never gave on that false hope that things would be different. That God would and should be different. That Jesus would and should be different.
And so here they are, locked in the upper room, paralyzed by fear and yet, at least the other disciples, knowing something has changed. They’re not only filled with fear but with joy at the same time. The readiness on the part of the disciples is not only for an openness to God’s grace and mercy, but in letting go of what they know and the way they think. The thing is, they will learn that what they think they know about God pales in comparison of what they don’t know, this mystery that they will be led into and beyond and it will change their lives forever. This will take them to places they could never imagine.
Think about it. We hear from John today in the second reading from Revelation landing on Patmos. Who the heck would decide to go to Patmos? It’s not some exotic, vacation destination that we think of when we think of Greece. It’s a rocky island with not much vegetation and life, and yet, his readiness has landed him there. But despite being ready, he still shows us today that it doesn’t take away the fear, the doubt, the questions, and wondering why he listens to God in the first place. He once again finds himself in the ready position, vulnerable and questioning, and God steps in. Like us, he falls back on what he knows and once again is going to have to imagine God in a new way and let of of what was, again. It’s never-ending! But he does and grace and mercy break into John’s life, going places he’d least expect, open to the unknown, and being led to a deeper place within and a deeper love for this never-ending mystery we call God, once crucified and now raised from the dead.
Then there are these disciples. We don’t know how their lives are changed until we get to Acts of the Apostles that we hear from throughout these fifty days. There’s a bit of a gap between the disciples we meet in today’s Gospel and where the story picks up in Acts, just as there often seems to be a gap between the fear and the joy in our own lives, holding on while letting go, what we know and what is yet unknown. By the time we meet them in Acts it’s all changed. It doesn’t mean that they don’t fear or question because they will. It’s how the community grows. But they no longer must be paralyzed by it anymore and with that the community expands and reaches new heights. They bring the sick out into the streets not even to be touched by them but to simply have their shadow fall upon them! They have been changed. They have encountered Christ crucified now raised from the dead, cross the threshold of the upper room to change the world because they first were changed and allowed themselves to be changed. There was a readiness and God stepped into the messiness of it all. God meets them in their fear, their grief, their hurt and darkness, and I suppose, even then pushes them off the cliff to change! Or so it is in my own life.
So before we’re quick to judge Thomas in today’s gospel as we have a tendency to do, we must put ourselves in his place. He and the disciples had expectations and had to let them go. He and the disciples doubted and questioned and yet learned to believe, experienced God in a new way. He and the disciples feared, and rightly so at that time, knowing their lives were at stake, but they accepted love and mercy and they were changed forever. If we’re not ready, then we must pray for a readiness of heart. We must step to the cliff, yeah, maybe look back at all we have known, and yet still step forward and out of the upper room, into this great mystery we celebrate and this great mystery that changes our lives forever. God wants more from us and we must ask if we’re ready. We may still fear and hold on, but the Easter joy and live and love and mercy will win out and we’ll be taken to new places, new experiences, and a new life that can only be possible by God!