I have always had a certain sympathy for Thomas – Doubting Thomas, as he is often remembered. It had been an awful week. Their Lord had been taken away, tortured and crucified, their friend Judas, took his own life after betraying Jesus, and then they had to live with their own terrible fear of a similar end, but also the shame of running away.
Imagine how Thomas must have been feeling. In his position, I too might have thought my friends were being fanciful. After all, people don’t recover from crucifixion, even with today’s medicine and techniques. But I have learnt in the 18 years I’ve been in Manchester that when all seems grim and hopeless, when I’ve felt lost and broken, God is there, present and as real as Jesus became for Thomas, as he put his fingers and hands into Jesus’ wounds.
In this 18 years, my life has changed beyond recognition, I have met people, some kind, some not so kind, who have in their own ways shaped me into the person I am today. The first time I came to St Chrysostom’s was about 9 years ago, to attend the SCP vocations weekend. I’d only just returned to church after being away for a couple of years. People were so friendly. After that, I came with a friend a few times to the LGBT mass, again I was met with warmth.
Winding forward to 2015, I came here as parish assistant, when I was in the middle of my training for ministry and then back again in 2019 as curate. Looking back on these years, I can see that even when things have gone wrong, God has redeemed difficult situations and each time brought me to the places I needed to be to be shaped and formed both as a person and now as a priest.
John and the disciples have had their training with their Lord, now he is preparing them for their ministry, without him, or without his physical presence. Jesus’ resurrection offers them hope for better things to come. I know from my own experience, that however hopeless and terrible things can be, Jesus has conquered death, and throughout his life demonstrates his ongoing love and care for us. The gospels have so many examples of Jesus having people’s backs. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be hurt or challenged, but we know that God holds us and will guide us.
As a church community, St Chrysostom’s is a church that welcomes all, that welcomes the broken hearted, the lost, and those who are lost, but are good at covering their pain. There is a quote from Teresa of Avila which says: Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
St Chrysostom’s is Christ’s hands and feet on earth, you are the eyes of compassion, that loves and holds those who are broken. It’s not that every one of us here are fixed and sorted, it is because so many of want to share the love and healing we have received with others. Keep doing what you do, St Chrysostom’s Church for Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
This is the text of Mtr Kate’s final sermon at St Chrysostom’s today, 11th April. We thank her for all her work and support at St C’s and wish her well as she moves to a new ministry in South Wales.