Second Sunday of Easter: John 20:19-31
“On the evening of that day (Easter Sunday), the first day of the week, the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…”
The evening of the greatest day in history, the followers of Jesus are locked in their homes, afraid to move, afraid of the authorities, and afraid of death. For the first time in years, they are alone. Jesus their teacher and master is gone.
They are uncertain, confused and trying to make sense of their last week with Jesus. It was a whirlwind of intensity starting with the victorious high of Jesus’ entrance into the city and ending with the depths of despair at his torture and death.
“…Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you. When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19-20
Blessed Peace. Peace spoken in words, not once but twice. Peace shown, as he bares the wound in his pierced side and nail scarred hands. Peace touched, when Jesus tells Thomas to put his fingers in the scars so he could believe.
After the intensity of Lent, the pandemic, the online celebration of Easter, I really longed for peace in a new faith season. I felt depleted and needed rest, and yet yearned for a passion for God and life in the uncertain weeks to come. During a few days of rest and celebration, I started asking God for a new focus and passion. It really was already within me and came out in just one word: Beauty. The Spirit spoke it out again while I was doing some reading. I came across a prayer of St. Augustine in which he addresses God as “O Beauty.” Immediately my eyes teared up and my heart was again drawn to Beauty. God displays his glory in Beauty and the Divine is Beauty. This prayer, this recognition of God’s name in my heart has renewed my “affections” for God.
Prayer. Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your Peace. (Augustine. Confessions.)
Visio Divina. The Practice of Divine Seeing. Look again at the mosaic mural at the top: “Jesus Shows Himself to Thomas” by Rowan and Irene LeCompte. (This is one of six murals in the Resurrection Chapel at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.) Read the story of Thomas:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God?” John 20:26-28
Imagine yourself in the room when Jesus enters. Go through the story again in your mind. Imagine yourself as Thomas. Hear Jesus’ offer of “Peace.” See Jesus lift his robe for you to touch his side. How do you respond? What do you believe?
Further Reflection: Affection is an old English word that means a desire or intention. During a spiritual awakening in the mid 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards, a Reformed revivalist, wrote about “Holy Affections,” including hope, love, holy desire, joy, religious sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal. His list drew me in to others like the fruit of the Spirit or the Beatitudes. Any of these are good to reflect on further. What holy desires may the Spirit be using to draw you into delighting in the Lord? May today’s reading help you find renewed “affection,” a new delight in Peace and Beauty, even in days of fear and uncertainty.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires (affections) of your heart.” (Ps 37:4)