Forthcoming Services are as follows:
Thursday 22nd April 10am Feria at Eastertide
Sunday 25th April 9.30am Parish Mass
Please be aware Services are still socially distanced, masks are required and congregational singing is still not permitted.
Sermon: Third Sunday of Easter
One of the things about getting older, as I have discovered, is that our faces and our bodies tell something about the story of our lives. Childhood scars tell the story of mishaps. Then there may be the traces of surgical procedures. On top of that there are laughter lines and frown lines. Maybe if I had more money than sense - as we say in Yorkshire - I might be tempted to visit a plastic surgeon who would make me look a decade or two younger than I am. Instead, I tell myself that the marks we bear on our faces and bodies are the reminder of an authentic life story. We are who we are, with all our memories and experiences – all those things that make us real and that give us a personal history.
The earthly life of Jesus was shorter than I have already lived, but the marks on his body tell a remarkable story. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, as we hear in St Luke’s gospel today, there was no filling in or airbrushing out of the wounds that he bore:
“Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
When the disciples first saw Jesus, they were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. But there was nothing insubstantial about his appearance. The man who stood before them was the man in whose earthly life they had shared. Now, once again, he stood there and, as we heard last week, said: “Peace be with you”. Once they recognised Jesus for who he really was, the doubts and agitation that had risen in their hearts were overtaken by an incredible joy. It was the Lord.
Jesus, when he appeared again to his disciples, explained the real meaning of the Scriptures to them, just as he had to done on the Road to Emmaus. It was only through understanding the message of sacrificial love and the deliverance of God’s people that the death of Christ made any sense to the troubled disciples. God knows that we are not capable of rescuing ourselves from the snares of human folly and certainly not capable of overcoming the power of death. Therefore, through Jesus, God accomplishes these things and opens up for us the way to new and everlasting life.
The thing about Christianity is that it is an embodied faith and the Incarnation is central to our understanding of who Jesus really is – truly God and truly human. It is not just abstract and spiritual, but something that makes a real and physical difference to our lives on earth.
The man who stood in the presence of his amazed disciples was the same Jesus that they had known, but now he was no longer living within earthly boundaries. He has been set free from all earthly limits and above all, from the power of death. As Mary Magdalene discovered, Jesus was not someone to cling to like an earthly possession, but someone whose life was to be shared – and Jesus himself poured out his life unselfishly and completely. He calls his disciples -each and every one of us – to share his life and to give of ourselves in his service.
For us, being Christians does not mean losing our humanity. Far from it. Jesus was just as real when risen as he was when he first became known to his disciples in Galilee. In the same way, God does not expect us to play a part but to be transformed by a life of grace. It means coming before God as we really are, with our life history, and with our faults as well as our gifts. We still bear he wounds of the lives we have lived and our history is not wiped away. As Rowan Williams points out, the Resurrection does not mean that Jesus was un-crucified, but that he was raised to new life.
In the same way, when we become Christians, our lives are not rewound as though we could start over from the beginning. As Rowan Williams puts it, “The gospel will not ever tell us that we are innocent, but it will tell us we are loved… Grace will remake us but not undo. There is all the difference between Christ un-crucified and Christ risen.”
All we have to do is to bring ourselves and our life story into the presence of Jesus. Through the gospels the words of Jesus come to life in us and we understand just as we ourselves are understood. We share the presence of Christ in the Sacrament and his love takes shape in our lives. In this way, the risen life of Jesus is something into which we ourselves are incorporated as sons and daughters of the eternal Father. By the grace of God, may we live that life always.