Following new guidance by the Diocese, live-streaming from the Church is at the moment not allowed. Prayers, readings and reflections are available below:
Second Sunday of Easter 19 April
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Second Sunday of Easter
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast; not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept.
For since by Adam came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification; grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Acts 2:14, 22-32, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31.
Grant to us, our families, friends and neighbours, the grace of the Resurrection. Break through the closed doors of our fear and doubt and give us the faith that needs no sign but the knowledge of divine love present among us.
We pray for the sick and for all who bravely and selflessly care for them.
We pray by name for Dean Draper, Otto Lein, Charlie Chesser and Bill Scott.
We pray for those who have recently died, for Ginette Ghorghiu, Andrea Fancellu and Barbara Pendegrass.
To make make free: Risen to new life
(audio file available)
Despite the present restrictions on our freedom of movement and association, the glorious liberty that we enjoy as children of God, comes from Our Lord’s Passion, his death and Resurrection. His incarnate life, his ministry, teaching, miracles of healing, adulation and rejection had been moving inexorably to that point, to that divine intersection of heaven and earth on the Cross. And there, caught in that moment of history, as if the created order held its breath, hanging on the gallows of Golgotha, he commended his spirit into his Father’s hands and at the very moment of his death, he conquered death. In that moment of time and eternity death was transfigured into life, defeat into victory, hatred into love, humiliation into triumph, glory into glory.
Apart from his Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple, Jesus had been deserted by his followers. They fled. They hid. They feared for their lives. They saw in his death the end of their glorious adventure. Having followed this charismatic figure, given up homes and jobs for the promise of greater rewards, they saw it all turn to dust and to ashes, their hopes dashed, locked in the silence of the tomb. They did not realise that there had to be more than memory and mourning. By dying Jesus destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [he delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”
It was this same life that Jesus offered to his disciples and continues to offer to us who are willing to respond and to accept the challenge. In the Gospel Jesus appears to his fearful disciples and by his appearance proves his triumph on the Cross and his conquest of sin, so that “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by breathing on his disciples. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” From this moment onward, the mission of the Christ and of the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church in which we are the heirs and successors, the continuers of the mission. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”
Thomas was not witness to this appearance of the Risen Christ. He did not believe his fellow disciples. He remained unconvinced by their experience. Sceptical, suspicious, he was not to be swayed by the mass delusion, nor the obviously hysterical reaction of his colleagues. But when he saw, he believed. When he touched and felt, he was convinced. Such, of course, had not been the case of Simon Peter when he confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For, as Jesus said, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Similarly, S. Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.”
The testimonies of S. Mary Magdalen, the disciples, S. Thomas, those on the road to Emmaeus, all point to the transforming reality of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order. The historical record accords with what we have known and experienced by human nature. It is clear that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross, which had been foretold but which they had not understood nor appreciated. The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that, at least, some of the disciples did not believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels show us a group of demoralised and frightened men. They had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb. When Jesus revealed himself to the eleven remaining disciples, he found them in such a state that “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus, the disciples still doubted, so impossible did it seem to them: they thought that they were seeing a ghost, “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.” Thomas experienced the test of doubt and in S. Matthew's Gospel it says that during the Lord’s last appearance after the Resurrection, his appearance in Galilee, there were still some who doubted. The arguments of those who posit the hypothesis that the Resurrection was not an historical, physical event but produced by the faith of the Apostles and their credulity will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in and their understanding of the Resurrection was born, was formed, under the action of divine grace, from their direct and personal experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.
Knowing and understanding human nature, Jesus risen from the dead established contact with his disciples by means of touch and in the sharing of a meal, as they had done innumerable times before. In these tangible ways he invited them to recognise what their eyes saw and their senses apprehended, that he was not a ghost, not a figment of their collective imagination, nor their individual imaginings. He allowed them to verify that the risen body by which he appeared to them was the same body that had been beaten, scourged, tortured and crucified, for his risen body still bore the traces of the Passion, of the sacred wounds inflicted when he was killed. Yet, at the same time, his authentic body possessed the new properties of a glorious body, not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills. Christ’s humanity is by his death and resurrection no longer to be confined to the earth; that task is done, that task is over, but it belongs only to the Father’s divine realm. It is this reason which explains what may seem like puzzles about Our Lord’s appearances. Jesus risen from the dead enjoyed the sovereign freedom of appearing how he wished: in the guise of a gardener, or other forms familiar to his disciples and it was precisely so to awaken their faith so that they would recognise him.
Our faith is equally visibly awakened by our perception of the reality of Our Lord’s Passion and his Resurrection. When his visible presence was taken from them Our Lord did not leave his disciples as orphans, nor leave them comfortless. He promised to remain with them until the end of time and to that end, and to fulfil that promise, he sent to them the Holy Spirit to animate the Church, to be active in their lives and direct their actions. And he also gave them, at the Last Supper, his very self in the Blessed Sacrament, the most comfortable Sacrament, the most sustaining food. He realised the human need for evidence of his presence that was real and substantial. As a result, no doubt for the disciples and the early Apostles and certainly no less for us latter-day disciples and apostles, communion with Jesus, as a consequence of his promise so enacted and so established, communion with Jesus has become more intimate, more intense, and more personal and all within the Church which is his Body. “By communicating his Spirit” and by his sacramental presence in our tabernacles and on our altars, “Christ mystically constitutes as his body those … who are called together from every nation.”
We share, through God’s grace, in the exalted mission that was first entrusted to the Apostles and we have been endowed by Christ through the Holy Spirit with the gifts to fulfil our several vocations in the Christian life. We are now his emissaries, his apostles and in us Christ continues his mission to the world in his risen life. To that world, torn and ravaged as it is, we preach the Gospel of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and liberty. We preach Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended and Christ glorified. But more than preaching, more than teaching, more than worship we are called to live the exemplary risen life of Christ, renewed, transformed into that perfection of holiness for which Christ died and rose again. In those great acts, selfless and self-sacrificial, lie not only our salvation and eternal hope but the salvation and the everlasting hope of all humankind. If we ever forget that, if we ever fall away from the high standards of love that are enjoined upon us, if we ever fail in our obligations, as fail we will, as fall away we shall, as sin we are bound to do, look at Jesus hanging on the Cross, hanging there for you and me, see there love, unconditional and profligate, poured out for you and for me, that we might be free to rise from our sin and failings and live anew. He rose gloriously from the dead that we may have life and have it abundantly and for ever. For that liberty to love, that freedom to serve, thanks be to God.