LOW SUNDAY 27 APRIL 2014 John 20.19-31
Yesterday was my 78th birthday. Numbers have significance in the Bible, particularly seven and eight. On the seventh day God rested from all his work in creation and saw that it was very good, so God blessed the seventh day.
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week but to call it the eighth day is to recognise that, on that day, a new creation began. Today is the octave day of Easter.
Every Sunday is the first day of the week, the day when God created Light and it is also the eighth day, the day of the Resurrection when God gave New Life and a New Creation.
The Gospel according to John begins even before the first day, declaring that the Word who created all things in the beginning, the Word who was with God and indeed is God, the true Light who enlightens everyone, the true Life who give life to all, took flesh and became man. Some did not receive him but those who do become God’s children. Today we heard the Gospel’s ending, which takes up the themes of John’s Prologue. The apostles were behind locked doors, afraid of those who had rejected the Word made flesh and crucified him. Jesus is suddenly there with them, bringing peace to calm their fear and making them glad with his presence.
Just as at the beginning the Holy Spirit brought order out of chaos, so Jesus breathes on them the same Spirit and commissions them to proclaim the good news, which brings peace to all the world. Thomas is privileged to speak for all the apostles when he sees the incarnate Lord bearing the marks of the passion in his flesh. Now they truly believe him to be Lord and God.
Many years ago I recall Father Geoffrey Curtis asking me whether I thought it was possible for people in old age to produce works of inspiration and fruitfulness. He thought it was possible and certainly we see examples in Sir John Tavener and in the South American writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Perhaps everyone will produce achievements as great as theirs, in the next life if not in this.
I am reminded of Jesus' words to Nicodemus: ‘You must be born again’. Nicodemus was astonished. ‘How can anyone be born when he is old?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must be born of water and the Spirit.’
The moment of rebirth is baptism but, as we know, the fruit of that sacrament is only produced over a lifetime. The new creation which began with the resurrection of Jesus begins with a small seed and grows imperceptibly as we are made fit for heaven. Is this possible?
The current National Geographic Magazine has an article about our universe. It says ‘13.8 billion years ago our entire visible universe was contained in an unimaginably hot dense point, a billionth the size of a nuclear particle’. The universe now extends billions of light years across and is still expanding. Our universe is beautiful and full of wonder but we may be sure that far more glorious is the new creation which began when Jesus, our Lord and God, rose from the dead on the third day.