Emmett Till was 14 years old when he was tortured and murdered in Mississippi on August 28, 1955. He was accused of flirting with a white cashier, Carolyn Bryant. His mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, insisted that her son’s funeral be open-casket because “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” The families of children who die in violent, terrible acts want the world to know what happened in the hopes that it will never happen again.
In today’s reading, Thomas wants to see the evidence that the risen Christ before him is the Jesus who suffered violent death. Jesus says, “‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Mrs. Till-Mobley wanted the world to see the wounds and marks of such profound violence on her son. Those who see and touch such wounds are astonished. “My Lord!” can be the exclamation of belief or of unbelief. When we see and believe, we exclaim, “My Lord!” Often our exclamation means more: “I can believe but this is an unbelievable act.” When our perception of violence leads to our belief in it and our unbelief of its power, we honor life and death.
The Gospel writer tells us, “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah . . . and that through believing you may have life.” We tell stories of our witness to violence because we know that death is not the final word. Life and love in Christ will triumph.
Sun of justice, ray of blessings, form of light, cherished desire. . . . Let your light dawn, your salvation be swift, your help come in time, and the hour of your arrival be at hand* *Saint Grigor Narekatsi, Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart, trans. Thomas J. Samnelian (2002), 467-68.
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples are unable to remain silent. They go to the Temple to proclaim the gospel. Some receive the message, while others do not. This causes turmoil within the community, but the apostles stand firm in their testimony, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Psalm 150 might be on the lips of those early apostles. Everything that has breath should praise the Lord! The author of Revelation recounts a vision that he receives from the risen Jesus Christ, who one day will return as Lord of all nations. In John we learn more about the source of the confidence of the apostles. They have experienced Jesus in the flesh, and this experience gives power to their proclamation of the reality of his resurrection.
Read Acts 5:27-32. When has your faith compelled you to rise up, stand up, or kneel down in obedience to God rather than earthly authorities?
Read Psalm 150. When have you praised God with great noise? When have you praised God with quiet service to creation?
Read Revelation 1:4-8. How do you see peace arising out of violence in the Bible and in the world around you?
Read John 20:19-31. How have your experiences of witnessing violence or the results of violence helped you to understand that violence does not have the last word?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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