3rd Sunday of Easter 2015

After my Mom’s death, a parishioner sent me a poem by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre called, “How to Recognize Grace”:


                                                It takes you by surprise

                                                It comes in odd packages

                                                It sometimes looks like loss

                                                Or mistakes

                                                It acts like rain

                                                Or like a seed

                                                It’s both reliable and unpredictable

                                                It’s not what you were aiming at

                                                Or what you thought you deserved

                                                It supplies what you need

                                               Not necessarily what you want

                                                It grows you up

                                                And lets you be a child

                                                It reminds you you’re not in control

                                                And that not being in control

                                                is a form of freedom


In the Gospel this 3rd Sunday of Easter, the risen Jesus takes the disciples “by surprise”.  Startled and terrified, they think they’re seeing a ghost as he stands in their midst.  Jesus says to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?”

Whenever I face the piercing honesty of those words, I’m taken by surprise as if they’re addressed to me, troubled and full of questions as I sometimes am.    Jesus not only reads the disciples incredulous hearts; he exposes mine as well.

Are not most of us, if truth be told, more troubled than peaceful and without answers when it comes to faith and the question of God?  Where Jesus seems more phantom-like than real; ethereal and less part of our flesh and bone existence than we had hoped? 

“Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

After speaking those words which want only to dispel doubt, Jesus eats in their sight a piece of baked fish to show them once and for all that he’s no figment of their imagination; that he offers them a faith in which they can sink their teeth.  A faith they can taste and that’s every day; faith that is able to nurture, and that nourishes. 

Surprised.  It’s as if scales fall from their eyes as they recognize Jesus as real; as alive and necessary as food.  It is what the Eucharist desires to accomplish:  bringing to life within us all a Mystery we take for granted or don’t recognize at all.

Even with that in mind, we still think, “If only we could touch Christ as did the disciples, then the gnawing questions, the doubts would subside and give way to peace”.   If only.

Those two words and such wishful thinking blind us to what is; to the Risen One ever in our midst.  Christ continues to touch our lives with a grace that takes us by surprise; it “acts like rain or like a seed…It grows you up and lets you be a child”. 

The other day—a day gray and rain-swept—I was having lunch with a friend at Vios Restaurant.  While sitting next to a window that looked out onto the street  I ate my quiche du jour and noticed on the far side two young girls happily skipping past with a parent trudging behind.  Their colorful rain slickers and their joy--despite the rain-- brightened things.   The joy of it all surprised me with the “reliable and unpredictable” nature of grace.  The practice of Resurrection wants only to nurture us if only we look up and see the everyday with “grace-healed eyes” as St. John Chrysostom once said.

As I sat there, listening to my friend talk and watching that child-like joy slip from sight, words of   Gerard Manley Hopkins sprang to mind; from his poem, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”:

                  For Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his…


As the Easter season skips along and we find ourselves trudging behind weighted with questions and doubts, may grace take us by surprise so we might come to recognize the One raised from death:  who plays in ten thousand places, even now.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor










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