“you Israelites” with a religious pedigree like no other before or since “you handed over God’s servant Jesus, then disowned him, even though Pilate decided to release him..you who accused him & demanded the reprieve of a murderer..you killed the prince of life” ..the evidence is overwhelming, the Jews were guilty on all counts.. & Peter on behalf of early Church, first Christians, far from throwing book at them, calls gently compassionately for “metanoia” a change of heart.. our value added as todays Christians is, in the face of dis-grace, to offer mercy..
the God of Abraham Isaac & Jacob..his chosen people & now you & I.. ;Lord have mercy the God of our ancestors..Jesus the Jew & our Risen Christ.. ;Christ have mercy now you must repent & turn to God..our sins wiped away but never us .“;Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“..do you believe every word in the Bible is true, Fr Bede?” one of many questions I am asked by students on retreat, & when I say “no, I don’t” there is a collective sigh of relief. I believe details of gospels vary, depending on who tells the story & message they are trying to put across to a particular audience. Whilst I don’t believe every word is true, I believe every word is a contributory factor towards the eventual discovery of truth. Last weekend we had graphic story by St John of doubting Thomas..he walked out of spiritual covid bubble, only to return to find Risen Christ had appeared in upper room whilst he was away, & by gum did the others rub it in, smirking derisorily..8 days later Jesus returns & Thomas gets cream & milk; to see & to touch, no social distancing PPE nor sanitising.. gospel you have just heard is Luke’s meek & mild account of same episode..instead of Thomas absconding it is two disciples on way home to Emmaus having given up on their master now dead & buried..in guise of stranger who they strangely invited into a meal the penny dropped & they ran back to Jerusalem to tell rest of surprise encounter..& at that moment Jesus appears in upper room “peace be with you” appears to all eleven including Thomas, all keeping to rules of social bubble..they all get to see & then “touch me & see..yes, it is I indeed.”like you & I in 15mins time, the Body of Christ to see to touch & for us, the ultimate blessing the first disciples didn’t get..to taste..their shared meal was only grilled fish..& ours? ”take this all of you & eat of it..this is my Body..do this in memory of me..he who eats my flesh & drinks my blood lives in me & I in him” “do you believe every word in the Bible is true, Fr Bede?” “I am the Way the Truth & the Life”..”& they could not believe it..”& 2000yrs later lets be truthful neither can we..we hear the words remembered recited but struggle to believe in the truth of the encounter/experience..Luke the spiritual doctor ever attempting to heal wounds of division puts ointment & a dressing on wounded unbelief of Jesus’ closest followers, by a Jesus who reportedly said to them “you are witnesses to this” really?..seeing touching & still“they could not believe it”.. would you truthfully be convinced by them?..in Mark’s account Mary Magdalen is the beloved disciple par excellence..she is first to see Risen Christ, she runs to upper room to tell socially religiously distant eleven; battered on door, they took 4mins to unlock six mortice locks & three barrel bolts, she falls into room, scans it to get eye contact with Peter, runs to him grabs him by neck of his tunic, & with eyes like saucers, she shouts “we have seen him, he is alive!” & all she got back was cold blank look of unbelief..”they did not believe her when they heard her story that he was alive & that she had seen him” poor lass, & much much poorer, poor them..& maybe poor us?..frightened rabbits self-isolating with underlying spiritual health problems like long long covid..not for listening to a woman doctor who came with instructions for next step “go to Galilee”..an invitation of a lifetime for a lifetime, first to be loved & then, only then, to learn to love..”he opened their minds [& hearts ] to understand.”..we’ve just finished in our refectory a book by Ronald Rolheiser “the Passion & the Cross” tells a beautiful love story in relation to Jesus’s words from the Cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Lk 23;34. Karl Rahner pointed out that in fact they did know, knew exactly what they were doing, just like at least most of time we know when we are doing wrong. For Rahner, “they know not what they were doing” refers to something beyond conscious awareness.What those who were crucifying Jesus didn’t know is how much they were loved..a beautiful repentant sinner Mary Magdalen, a motley crew of apprentice disciples, in a Thomas who still doubts, a Peter who still denies Jesus three times time & time again..in a repentant Judas “today you will be with me in paradise” & in those of us still unconvinced disbelieving wobbling. Some years ago Rolheiser received a letter from woman in her late forties. She began by telling him that she could, in all truth, say that for the first forty years of her life she had not committed a sin. “I grew up in a terrible home & was abused & unloved as a child. I became bitter, suicidal & acted out in every way. I bit in order not to be bitten & broke every commandment except murder, which in fact I contemplated, but I really don’t believe I ever sinned, even though I knew I was doing wrong at the time. Why don’t I think I sinned? Because sin is a betrayal of love & nobody, as far as I knew, had ever loved me. God was loving me, I know that now, but I had no way of knowing or believing that then. I did what I needed to do to survive. Sometime after my fortieth birthday a miracle happened. I fell in love & that person fell in love with me. I experienced love for the first time. I know now what it means to sin because I’m loved. Now when I do something wrong, it is a sin because I am betraying love. But you first need to be loved in order to betray it. When I didn’t know love, & had no way of sensing God’s love for me, I had nothing to betray, at least as far as I knew. That’s why I believe that, even though I did many wrong things, I didn’t sin.” “Father, forgive them for they”..don’t know any better.. Jesus meets us where we are, & how we are..he approaches us in our dis-grace as we, perhaps like woman & Mary Magdalen, are loved..as Sebastian Barry in his book “the Steward of Christendom” speaks of the homecoming of young Willie & his dog Shep, both guilty & approaching moment of reckoning with his father & his reputation for judgementalism “when the love that lies in them deeply like the glittering face of a well is betrayed by an emergency, & the child [the forty year old woman & an ageing country parish priest/monk] sees at last that he is loved, loved & needed, & not to be lived without, & greatly.” How familiar & true this is, is it not?.. ..a wonderful title to offer each of you now & for a lifetime..”you are witnesses to this” tells only half the truth..”you are stewards of Christendom”..now love it, share it & enjoy living in your own true life story..a love story to die for.. [3rdSun Easter Yr B Lk 24;35-48]