A Graduate School of Theology and Ministry

Second Sunday of Easter

May 01, 2022

Lectionary 45:
Acts 5:12-16
Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31

Possible preaching themes:

• Cultivating mercy: in 2000 Pope John Paul II proclaimed this “Divine Mercy Sunday,” themes reflected in the readings (e.g., Acts many cures of the sick; gospel of merciful forgiveness that Jesus’ death and resurrection enacted)

• The power of touch: Thomas’ instinct to want to see for himself, to touch the wounds of Jesus, is a natural human instinct and call to mission for touching the wounds of the world.

Possible scientific resources:

• Cultivating mercy:
o “The compassionate Instinct;” psychologist Dacher Keltner argues for a biological basis for compassion, a parallel virtue to mercy https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_compassionate_instinct
o “The emerging science of Virtue;” scientists are testing claims that virtues are important in human psychology and behavior. This article outlines some of these paths in the context of “virtue science” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1745691620924473
o “Neuroscience, Morality and Virtue’; a 50-minute video by Psychologist Warren Brown demonstrating that moral decisions and actions show a consistent network of brain structures that are port of those involved in social emotions and intuitions https://www.faraday.cam.ac.uk/resources/multimedia/the-neuroscience-of-virtue/
o “How can neuroscience contribute to moral philosophy;” recent neuroscience can support moral philosophical and psychological accounts of human morality” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40889-016-0016-9

• The Power of Touch
o “Hands on Research: the Science of Touch;” psychologist Dacher Keltner explains how everyday forms of touch can bring emotional balance and better health https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research
 A short video of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW5p8xOVwRo
o “Hands on research;” very brief article siting important studies from early 20th century demonstrating that the majority of institutionalized infant under the age of 2 died due to failure to thrive, related to the lack of touch and affection. https://www.evergreenpsychotherapycenter.com/importance-touch/
o “Benefits of Human Touch: What is the impact on our Health?” brief article providing overview of values of human touch for our wellbeing, including 8 links to resources providing provide scientific bases for these claims https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/body-mind/mental-health/benefit-human-touch

Homily outline: Thomas the Toucher

• Rehabilitating Thomas
o Thomas is famously labeled “the doubter,” a limiting and demeaning classification that overlooks important modeling for faith
o Earlier in Gospel when Jesus decides to go into dangerous Bethany, Thomas the brave who insists the disciples go along even if it means dying with Jesus (11:16)
o When Jesus is giving his last supper discourse, Thomas the irrepressible confesses honestly that he does not know where Jesus is going (14:5)
o Today’s gospel reveals Thomas the unscamable who wants to witness the risen Christ himself
o Barbara Brown Taylor exploits this aspect of Thomas in her homily on this passage (Home by Another Way 1999, p. 114):
 “Thomas is a stand-n for all of us who want to see something for ourselves before we decided whether or not it is true”
o Furthermore, he does so through one of the most intimate and forms of human communication: touch

• The vital power of touch
o When thinking of important communication modes, we may think of speech, digital images, sounds of music
o touch is the first sense that babies develop in the womb, touch receptors developing on their face by week 8 of pregnancy https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/fetal-development/fetal-touch/
o Touch is essential for the health of newborns; studies show that well-nourished, safely sheltered infants without touch are likely to experience developmental problems and even die https://www.evergreenpsychotherapycenter.com/importance-touch/
o Touch starvation or “skin hunger” occurs with adults
 Without enough physical touch we can become stressed, anxious, or depressed https://www.webmd.com/balance/touch-starvation
 This was a widespread phenomenon during COVID-19 when grandparents ached to touch their grandkids, and family members longed to touch sick and dying loved ones https://www.une.edu.au/connect/news/2021/03/touch-hunger-causes-new-form-of-suffering-under-covid-19
o Touch is important for the wellbeing of adults
 Frequent hugs can lower blood pressure
 aid combatting depression
 even help NBA players play better when they performed bonding gestures like high-fives, back-slapping and chest-bumps https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/body-mind/mental-health/benefit-human-touch
o Helen Keller (d. 1968) was a celebrated author, disability rights advocate whose primary sense for making her way into the world was touch
 Less well known was Laura Brigman who lost the use of even more senses than Keller [Keller could smell and taste] yet became the first deaf-blind person to receive a full education https://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/11/a-woman-who-lost-the-ability-to-smell-taste-see-and-hear-as-a-child-was-the-first-deaf-blind-person-to-be-fully-educated/

• The tactile Savior, our tactile worship
o Jesus was fully human; like every other human being, his skin was the largest organ in his body
o He deployed the sense of touch often and in striking ways,
 Multiple times he touched the blind in healing them (e.g., Mark 8:22-26)
 He touched the bier of the widow’s son before he raised her [Luke 7:14)
 He touched the leper to heal him (Matt 8:3)
 He touched the servant of the high priest and healed his severed ear (Luke 22:51)
 He touched his disciples when they were crouched in fear after the transfiguration (Matt 17:7)
o As he was also touched in the hope of grace and healing (e.g., Mark 3:10)
o In the same way our fully embodied worship is filled with acts of touch
 Laying hands on the elect for initiation and ordination
 Chrismating babies and confirmandi
 Signing baptized with ashes
 Embracing each other in the sign of peace

• Gospel implications
o Psychologist Dacher Keltner notes, we live in a touch deprived world
o We would rather stand apart, maybe look out of curiosity, but are cautious of getting to close, with hand sanitizer on the ready
o Thomas challenges any stand-offish form of Christian discipleship
o The world is wounded as was the Christ
o His willingness to touch the wounds, to get up close and personal with pain, even crucifixion, prompts us to do the same
o Our families, our neighbors, the stranger, the marginalized are skin-hungry for the compassionate Christ
o As we were touched by hand and water and chrism in baptism, so we are missioned to reach out to others.

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