The image in the post I put up last night, as we began to celebrate this Sunday, was of doubting Thomas by Caravaggio; the image here is described as by ‘Martin Schongauer and workshop’.
In Beckenham this Sunday, which as I noted earlier has several names, it is a beautiful Spring day. The wonder of this time of year, so full of new life, symbolises for Christians the joyful resurrection of the Lord which we have been celebrating this Easter week, amidst so much death and suffering in this country and the whole world. Our gospel reading for this Sunday is always John 20: 19-31 (it is also sometimes read on the evening of Easter day because the events described begin on ‘the evening of that same day, the first day of the week.’ I have just heard an act of worship on Radio 4 in which a speaker reminded us that in the accounts of Luke and John the disciples are in ‘lockdown’ – they’re in a room with the doors closed and locked. They’re full of fear and anxiety, in spite of what some had encountered in the morning. In a sense the Christian churches are in lockdown – our buildings literally locked: while in most cases Catholic clergy are celebrating Mass in our churches, in some other denominations it seems even clergy aren’t allowed into church buildings or cathedrals. Like the disciples, all of us in different ways are anxious and afraid. Our faith may have been tested even more severely – we might, in these weeks, have been like Thomas in the story, refusing to believe.
As we join in worship remotely today, either at St Edmund’s or other churches, we try to experience the same sense of joy and new hope which the disciples felt in the upper room when the risen Jesus appeared to them, saying ‘Peace be with you’, a message of reconciliation for all of us. I will be putting up additional reflections during the day.
Please pray particularly for my colleagues Fr Steve and Fr Simplicio, and our seminarian Joseph Gulliford, as they celebrate our parish’s corporate worship this Sunday.
God bless and take care
The picture here is of the Church of the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the traditional site of the ‘upper room’ in today’s gospel.
The first reading at Mass this Sunday, Acts 2:42-47, gives a striking picture of the ‘radical’ lifestyle of the earliest Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit. They remain faithful and are regular in worship through the Eucharist, and that’s not all. They live together and share their possessions and resources – they share things out ‘according to what each one needed.’ Then was a real challenge to the accepted ways in which people live, Jews, Greeks or Romans: it must have really set Christians (not called that at this stage – the name comes later, in Antioch) apart.
This revolutionary way of living is part of the basis of religious communities of men and women bound by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In convents and monasteries this sharing of resources, this abandonment of the ownership of most personal property, is at the heart of how communities live. They continue to offer a powerful vision to the Church and the world. This is a good day to pray for them – particularly the two communities of sisters in this parish and the Opus Dei community here – and for vocations to the religious life. This time of isolation and vulnerability must be difficult for many religious communities. This lifestyle is also characteristic of the Catholic Worker communities founded by the Servant of God Dorothy Day (its logo is shown here), one of which, in north London,we support actively in this parish, so we should pray for that community today as well.
But this radical vision isn’t just for those called to a particular life in the Church. Not being tied to personal possessions and property, trying to share our goods and resources – particularly with those in need – these are virtuous paths for all disciples of Jesus Christ, in a world dominated by greed and possessiveness. As it happens we’re seeing new examples of the lifestyle practised in Acts chapter 2 in the Covid-19 crisis.Neighbours are helping each other out, sharing groceries and other essentials, looking out for health and other essential workers, giving to people in need, helping out food banks and so on. This is a sign of God’s presence in the midst of a crisis. A big challenge for all of us will be to keep this new (or rather, not so new) spirit alive when life gets back to normal.
Have a good Sunday and God bless