Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
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." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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." 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." 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." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 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." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.
Holy Week started for me on the Monday of Holy Week.
I participated in a rally in San Francisco, marching with hundreds who were hurt by the Catholic Archbishop in San Francisco who has recently restricted what diocesan high school teachers are allowed to talk about. We walked from the Mission District to the Cathedral, praying and singing and hoping for a new world. This procession reminded me so much of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday—a procession of hope and promise.
Later, on Good Friday, I participated in “Via cruces” … the Catholic Mexican reenactment of the fourteen stations of the cross… with residents of East Palo Alto. We walked the streets, praying and singing and remembering how much changes between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, watching as actors portrayed the humiliation and death of Jesus.
On Holy Saturday, I went for a hike through the redwoods and listened to the wind in the trees and waited for resurrection.
And on Easter Sunday, I went to church where a friend is a pastor and celebrated with friends on the South Coast and gave thanks for the surprise of Easter, and the gift of resurrection.
Monday and Tuesday were “back to the grind” kind of days…
You know, back to the real world,
back to life before Lent,
back to life before we started any of those commitments we sometimes take on—like giving up sugar or Diet Coke or swearing.
Back to normal.
But on Wednesday of this last week, Easter—resurrection returned.
On Good Friday, the community of Pescadero, where Puente, the nonprofit where I work, is, this little community lost a young man in a car accident. It was incredibly tragic and so many parts of the community mourned.
I can’t imagine his mother getting the call from the police on GOOD FRIDAY that her son had died. What tragic symbolism, what horrifying, weighty reality for the day. This mother will never again read the passages of Mary watching her son die the same way—instead she will see herself in the unfathomable loss and grief.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered at the major intersection in Pescadero to meet the hearse as it carried the young man into town, to pray and walk, and remember together.
His friends and coworkers pulled the casket out of the car.
His mother wept. She bent over and she had to be held up. Her deep belly sobs resonated in my own rib cage, reminding me of when I’ve been racked by unexplainable grief that cannot be contained. As she reached her arms across the casket, desperately trying to re-carry the life of her son, a mariachi band began the play.
It was—to my white experience—completely inappropriate. It was disrespectful. It was painful. Bright tuba tones and guitar chords playing over the wails of this young man’s mother. I wanted to shake them—“how dare you insist on LIFE in the face of such grief!”
And I remembered Thomas in our reading.
Thomas who in our story must have wept and despaired at the death of Jesus, must have retreated to the locked rooms, must have mourned. Thomas witnessed the crucifixion, and Mary’s sorrow and felt his own grief and loss. I imagine that Thomas wept body-shaking tears. The early church portrays him as not being there when Jesus appears, and so he is still in mourning when the other disciples tell him that they have “seen the Lord.” He is still without peace.
In that kind of grief, I imagine Thomas recoiling from the peace of the other disciples.
“How DARE you insist on life!”
As the casket made its journey through town to the cemetery, the crowd followed, carrying flowers. Step after step, I felt the presence of the people around me.
As we kept walking, another thought came to mind—this is resurrection.
We walked together, as a community in grief, rallying around the mother and family who wept with loss, and with the mariachi band that beat with our hearts that death was not the end, not the last stop on the journey. The band played and played, not over the tears of the family to drown them out, but to be a foundation… those notes knit together the community, so that they were not alone. “So that the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
With each step, we proclaimed: this is really hard. But this is not the end.
It’s easy to think that Thomas was the only one who struggled to believe that the resurrection of Jesus was at hand. It is easy to see Thomas as the “incredulous nonbeliever who hides inside each of us… who always wants a little more proof.” But the text says that all the disciples—even the ones who have already seen Jesus and have been sent into the world—are still in the room with the door shut, seven days later.
They’ve seen Jesus and they have not believed. They’ve returned to the room and locked the door—maybe out of fear that they too will be killed or fear that they will be accused of stealing Jesus’ body or fear of something else—fears that just seem a little ridiculous since they have seen Jesus alive.
Thomas hasn’t had that experience, so in some ways, he’s the only one with an excuse to be hiding. Thomas isn’t asking for anything more than what the other disciples have received.
Thomas is ready for Jesus. When Jesus appears, Thomas believes. The text doesn’t say that Thomas reached out to touch Jesus. It just says that Jesus arrives and gives Thomas peace. And Thomas, because now he sees that his grief does not need to continue—Thomas believes.
Easter Sunday was a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus—when we see and believe that death is not the end.
And this Sunday, we remember that resurrection is not the end—that God pursues us through the impossible, coming to us wherever we might be, undeterred by locked doors or fearful doubts. Serene Jones writes that this is “a strange thing to hold on to—[that] God comes seeking us, stepping through the walls that hardship builds around us, offering love at the very moment that grace seems nothing but a ghost story told by not-to-be-believed friends.”
But what do we do the next day? The next week? How do we respond to that resurrection, defying death? What comes next? Do we go back to our homes, and shut the door, and refuse to be changed? Or do we somehow practice resurrection with and for each other?
Those mariachi band songs were defying death, choosing the impossibility of life over the inevitability of death. We walked, in Pescadero, through the streets to the top of the hill in the cemetery. The catholic priest blessed the casket and when it was lowered into the earth, we dropped flowers into the grave. Some of the men in the community filled in the hole and the family wept, but they were not alone. We held them as they grieved—looking up at the sun that kept shining in the impossibly blue sky.
Coming down from the hill, I looked at the flowers growing along the path and the cows that were grazing.
Back to the real world,
back to life before grief,
back to life before we started the procession.
Back to normal.
And the next day, I went to lunch at the taqueria where the young man worked and met with another young man to talk about programming for the next month. This was a different normal, a changed normal… but not the kind of change we create in Lent… when we give things up. A change to normal that acknowledges that in Easter, God gives up everything. For us.
And then resurrection happens, with or without us.
What does this tell us about faith, about God? That God, that resurrection is recognizable whenever “peace is offered, in those moments when life’s most brutal violence is honestly acknowledged and when… we realize we are not alone.”
When Jesus appears to the disciples, he gives them peace: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They are not meant to return to their lives unchanged, but to go out into the world forgiving sins and loving other people as Jesus did, offering grace and peace to all.
Living into the weeks after Easter, we are called to new and different ways to live out resurrection, to join in on the resurrection that is around us, even amidst injustice, and suffering, and death, and grief. It is a resurrection build on a love that will not let us go, nor leave us alone.
And so, because that love is so hard to live into, the words from Wendell Berry’s Poem “Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front” have been echoing in my heart:
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful.
Lie down in the shade.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
 Serene Jones, Feasting on the Word, 400
 Ibid., 402
 Ibid., 404