Second Sunday of Easter: Christ without the Church is a contradiction.

What’s brought them to this room? They’re gathered in the room for the same reason that Mary of Magdala was up early on Easter Sunday morning – while it was still dark – visiting the tomb of Jesus. They love him; if they didn’t love him they wouldn’t be there – simple as that. They’d be at home or occupied in some other way. They’d be somewhere else.

And what brings Christ to this particular room? Why not a room in some other house? Because the people who love him are gathered in this particular room. “Why should the privileges of the true Christian be disclosed to humankind at large?” (John Henry Newman). It’s not going to happen. He reveals himself to those who love him.

There’s something else about the people gathered in this room. Each person there is leaving another life behind – perhaps family and friends too – and they’re gaining new friends, bound together by a common interest and love; the person of Jesus Christ. This love steals their hearts and unites them with others (once strangers) in a bond that’s effectively the formation of a new family; the Church.

The idea that we can somehow follow Christ on our own is nonsense. Once Christ steals more than one heart he binds those hearts together in a union of love – which is why we find the disciples gathered together. They belong to one another as much as they belong to Christ. One flows into the other. Christ without the Church is a contradiction and the Church without Christ is an even bigger contradiction!

Torch-lit Good Friday 2014 Way of the Cross procession presided over by Pope Francis at the Colosseum.

We can only presume about the whereabouts of Thomas. It seems odd that he’s not with them. Why isn’t he with the others? What could be more important? I suspect he’s among the first people to leave the Church, disappointed and disillusioned, his faith shattered by the events of Good Friday. To borrow the words of Pope Francis; Thomas sees the monstrosity of man when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil, rather than seeing the mercy of God. Sound familiar? How many have left the Catholic Church for this very reason? And his insistence that unless he can see the holes that the nails made is the demand of a man near the edge of faith.

How is he saved from the edge? Eight days later the infant Church is gathered again and this time Thomas has returned to the fold because of the witness of the others. Now he encounters the risen Christ himself and the encounter restores his faith in Christ but it also seals his return to the Church – one flows into the other.

This is profoundly instructive – the future of the Church hangs on this and this alone; encountering Jesus Christ.

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