The Sunday after Easter is known as Low Sunday – the end of the Easter Octave (8 days) which begins on Easter Sunday, but with connotations too, of numbers going to Church; after all the intensity of Holy Week and Easter, time to have a break. I usually have time off as it coincides with school holidays and is a good time to be together with the family. That is all so different this year; we have been together as a family for 3 weeks already, uninterruptedly, with the prospect of another 3 at least and more home schooling, online tutorials and university exams. There will be many for whom the prospect of yet more time isolated and distanced, will be a real struggle, even while seen as necessary. And for those with loved ones in hospital or care homes or otherwise separated, this time will be so tough.
The transition from Lent to Easter feels especially difficult given where we find ourselves this year, still struggling in the face of the Covid 19 epidemic, with the death toll continuing to increase and the incidence of sickness showing only small signs of slowing down – at least when measured in numbers being admitted to hospital. The confident Easter promises that pepper our hymns and liturgies – ‘the enemy is defeated’, ‘death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘where O death is your sting?’ – to me at least seem less than helpful in the face of the pandemic. But then if I am honest, I think too often as Christians we put too much emphasis on victories completed, finished, an overbearing confidence that may make us feel good and secure in our faith, but doesn’t connect with the world around us, and the very real struggles people face. Too much weight can be put on Easter as a happy ending to an otherwise grim story and it is a small step from there to belief in the resurrection becoming limited to an individual’s life after death. In contrast, much of our faith is expressed in terms of contradictions; we are told that we must lose our life to gain it; a world where the first will be last and the last first; we receive by giving. Holding on to the contradictions, not trying to explain everything away, but trusting that things will change, and we will change too – such is ‘resurrecting living.’
Always on the Sunday after Easter we hear the story of Thomas as told in the Gospel of John. In the evening on that momentous first day of the week, Jesus had appeared to his disciples, bringing them peace, forgiving them and commissioning them to go out and practice forgiveness. Thomas was absent and when told of what had happened, demanded that he see for himself; not just see, but touch the wounds. Which is just what happened when Jesus appeared the following week. ‘Put your finger here, reach out your hand and put it in my side’ said Jesus to Thomas. The wounds do not disappear in this resurrected life. Nor do the doubts. Wounds and doubts. Wounds and wonderings. Wounds and all. Which makes resurrection much more than a happy ending – who won when the final whistle went, but rather as a pattern for living here, now, that can make sense of Jesus saying ‘I came that they might have life in all it’s fullness’ (John 10.10) – as did Thomas discover for himself – the doubter, the sceptic had his heart opened in the presence of the wounded Christ and was able to say ‘ My Lord and my God’. For Thomas, new life erupts and blossoms, not life as before but transformed.
During these hard times, may we find our solace, hope, and courage in the wounded, risen Christ and allow our wounded lives to be so transformed and for the light, the love and the peace of the Risen Christ to be in our hearts.
Revd Jonathan Morris