Sunday, 11 April 2021

Living without fear and
in peace are signs of
faith in the Resurrection

The damage to the south-west window in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton on Easter morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 11 April 2021

10 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist

The Second Sunday of Easter (Easter II), Low Sunday

10 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist

The Readings: Acts 4: 32-35 or Isaiah 26: 2-9, 19; Psalm 133; I John 1: 1 to 2: 2; John 20: 19-31.

There is link to the readings HERE.

Saint Thomas and the Risen Christ depicted in a fresco in a church in Athens … Saint Thomas comes to Christ with doubts and questions while the disciples are locked away in fear (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

We are all shocked in this parish by the wanton vandalism that was perpetrated on Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on Easter weekend.

From the many messages of support and the responses that have poured in from so many people and so many places, I know that shock is shared way beyond this parish, way beyond this diocese and this land.

We arrived in the church on Easter morning, expecting to celebrate the rock being rolled away from the tomb and to celebrate the Resurrection.

Instead, we found a rock had been thrown through the window at the south side of the chancel area, the bottom part of the stained glass was shattered, and a forced entry had been attempted. Shards of glass were strewn everywhere, the cross draped in white as a sign of the Resurrection had been knocked over.

Easter Day is the most sacred day in the Christian Calendar, it is a day of triumph and victory, a day when the Risen Christ proclaims, ‘Peace be with you … be not afraid.’

But, instead, we found the church had been attacked … for a second time.

Parishioners were quick to come and to clean up, to express their shock, to secure the window and to board up the building.

This is not only damage to a window and a building. It is an assault at Easter on all that is sacred. Our neighbour, Father Sean O Longaigh, says ‘this is both disturbing and disgraceful, not to mention the sad irony of it happening on Easter morning.’ Local politicians have united in called it sacrilegious.

But this is also an attack on the whole community here in Askeaton. Already, the local GAA club has been vandalised in recent weeks. If the perpetrators are not confronted, who is the next target for these vandals? Shopfronts, business premises, family homes? It seems nothing is sacred to them.

The sharing of shock and torment by the wider community is uplifting and encouraging. We must stand with one another at times such as this.

All our readings on this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, teach us how important it is for us not to fear, to be at peace, and for communities to share.

In the first reading (Acts 4: 32-35), we are told the ‘whole group of those who believed’ are ‘of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common’ (Acts 4: 32).

This is not some political agenda or social engineering: it is because they are Easter people, because they share the grace of God through faith in the Resurrection.

In the alternative reading from the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 26: 2-9, 19), the people are told: ‘Because you [you plural] are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you … Do not fear, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 26: 4-5).

In the psalm (Psalm 133), we are reminded ‘how good and pleasant it is to dwell together in unity’ (Psalm 133: 1).

The early Church lives by sharing, in giving and in receiving.

In our Gospel reading (John 20: 19-31), we are reminded how the Risen Christ came and stood among the disciples, breaking down all their barriers of fear. On three occasions, he tells them, ‘Peace be with you’ (verses 19, 21, 26). When he breathes on them, he shares with them the gift of the Holy Spirit (verse 22).

We must live without fear, in peace and in the power of the Holy Spirit; we must share, and we must look forward to the future for this parish, for the Church.

We must have reason to hope for, to want, our Church doors to open again when the pandemic restrictions ease.

In these Covid lockdown times, when many people are locked away in their rooms in fear, how does the Church replace those fears with the peace that Christ wants us to share in?

As we wait behind closed doors for our churches to reopen, what is our vision for the Church when those doors open once again?

1, I think it is imperative that the Church shares fearlessly in the suffering of people today. We ought not be pleading a special case for the Church. It would be selfish to try to argue that opening our church doors is more important than grandparents seeing their grandchildren, than the jobs of people in the hospitality industry or so many other sectors of the economy, than the desire or needs of people to have a proper holiday.

2, Sharing is caring. Wearing facemasks, accepting cheerfully the present restrictions, not organising Church events that quickly become ‘super-spreader’ occasions … that phone call, text, offer to shop … all are signs that the Church both shares and cares. I am moved by the way English cathedrals, including Lichfield Cathedral, have been key centres for rolling out the vaccination programme in England: sacred spaces must be life-affirming, life-giving, hope-giving.

3, Christ came that ‘they might have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10: 10). His death and resurrection are not just for me individually, for you individually, but for all (see John 10: 8), that they may have life – not just a mere existence, but a life without fear, a life filled with love, a life that is lived to the full.

We share now, we care now, because we, because the Church, must be Christ-like, like the Risen Christ.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘There was not a needy person among them …’ (Acts 4: 34) … ‘Christ the Beggar,’ a sculpture by Timothy Schmalz on the steps of Santo Spirito Hospital near the Vatican (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 20: 19-31 (NRSVA):

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


The damage to the south-west window in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton on Easter morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Liturgical Colour: White

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter II):

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.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him.
Deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

The font from Saint Thomas Church in Newcastle West, Co Limerick … the church was deconsecrated in 1958 and demolished in 1962 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

293, Breathe on me, Breath of God (CD 18)
255, Christ is risen, alleluia! (CD 16)
338, Jesus, stand among us (CD 20)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



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