“the whole group of believers was united, heart & soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.” St Luke in writing Acts of Apostles paints an ideal community, an ideal family, sadly unconvincing so soon after the reality of the Resurrection when real story of real passion death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ was really lived..seeped in failure & thereby redemption.. ..today fittingly is Divine Mercy Sunday..when we remember our own fallenness & need of divine mercy & forgiveness.. Some years ago the Archbishop of Birmingham hit nail on head..nail which crucified Our Lord “the Catholic Church is a Church for sinners, which is why you & I are so at home in it”..a homecoming for each of us this morning, for those of us who are prepared to swallow our pride in deluding others with the pretence of a façade of our family life, & instead to bring our failures & weaknesses to the empty tomb & ask for divine mercy..
..for our wobbles in belief, in unity in heart soul & body.. ; Lord have mercy ..for ignoring & neglecting those among us who are in want.. ; Christ have mercy ..for holding on self possessively to our wealth, material & spiritual.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..best drama draws you into the plot & deeper it goes more real it gets..perhaps why 9.6m of us watch Line of Duty of a Sunday night..reality reinforced by BBC not allowing eager beavers who want to fast forward & binge on all seven episodes at once to feed their appetite..one episode at a time..did you just listen to the gospel I have just read or did you sense yourself in it..real drama 8 days after a real Resurrection last weekend?..or a story from 2012yrs ago “resurrected” in inverted commas, repeated every year like snowman at Christmas..a year of covid is a reality check..every year every gospel story is always new ..first disciples, first day of week, hours after Jesus’ death they went into lockdown..doors not just closed, as John softens reality, doors locked/bolted..lockdown physical emotional psychological & spiritual “for fear of the Jews” is, let’s be honest, lip gloss..the real fear was over what it now means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, potentially costing what it had just cost their leader, his life. In upper room & its climate of fear, anxiety & short-temperedness, they would be susceptible to the virus called dis-grace, light years apart from idealism we heard in 1st rdg & Luke’s lip gloss on community life..& in face of such disgrace & disease, Thomas walked out..for some fresh air & some thinking time..healthy self-isolation..a few of you, very few of you, & many hundreds more still experiencing it months years later, know what it is really like..”none of their members was every in want” food clothing love mercy “distributed to any members who might be in need”..really?..well those of us feeling guilty by now, take heart..it was to you/me, the motley crew of frightened rabbits who had denied betrayed disowned & slept on when he most needed us, to you/me he appears not to throw book at us “foolish so slow to believe” but to anoint you/me with his divine mercy “peace be with you”..can you feel that shiver down your spine, electricity of divine presence & understanding? not one jot less powerful & effective than that which gained Judas a place in heaven..that is the reality the drama of the Resurrection, which so few of us have yet to engage with, immerse into..that the line of duty gets us nowhere, a series of repeats to watch from pew, your own homes & my cloister week after week..sadly living out title of Cistercians ..OCSO..Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance..title does them an injustice, hits a nail on head for us ..”peace be with you” & he breathes into them the Holy Spirit, the vaccine par excellence, the divine mandate for divine mercy..to forgive now as you too have been forgiven by me just now..”hate the sin; love the sinner”[ St Augustine ]..& Jesus leaves them..“so am I sending you”..& then Thomas comes back & drama deepens “we [we not you] have seen the Lord”..in other words “Thomas you missed out..as usual, wrong place at wrong time, & He came whilst you were out, & we, not you, got his pardon & peace”..moments after being recipients of divine mercy, they revert to self-defence, self-righteous mode & find themselves spiritually self-isolating again..”foolish men so slow to believe”..8 days later drama reaches its climax..Jesus comes again..again & again..”peace be with you” notice for all of them, even for the ten miscreants who still hadn’t understood, & then he calls Thomas forward..one who has been self-isolating since covid began..with underlying health problems..some with real physical emotional psychological health problems & some with underlying spiritual health problems who could have returned to Church weeks/months ago but chose not to..therein in all of those is Thomas..”put your finger here; look here are my hands; give me your hand, put it into my side; doubt no longer but believe”..& Thomas, a full recipient of divine mercy, professes what we so often find too hard to voice, too hard to believe “my Lord & my God”..when I was a lad at home our milk was delivered to doorstep in glass bottles..& the treat of all treats was to ask Mum “please can I have the cream off the top of the milk?” a taste to die for..we here are the milk..green top..& thanks be to God, our Thomas’s, those we so often find fault with for not complying with the line of duty, are awarded in love like a mothers’ love, the love of the father of the prodigal..who get the hug the touch the mercy of a lifetime..”recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. & that believing this, you may have life through his name.” the saving of each one of us is in the quality of care & compassion we have for the Thomas’s among us, who perhaps, to your disappointment & anger, & perhaps to mine, missed out on our Holy Week & Easter..or so you thought until 10mins ago..it is they who will gently guide us, compassionately innoculationg us with the spiritual vaccine we call grace..mercifully lovingly undeservedly..a booster dose available, not through the Surgery but through your priest, on request & by appointment, not because he dutifully insists on an appointment, but so he can have some days hours to be like Thomas, to ponder pray & look forward to the moment of shared divine mercy.. ..the cure of a lifetime for a lifetime..in each direction..penitent parishioner & penitent priest.. ”my Lord & my God”..