We sometimes forget that how we think affects how we are, and how we are affects how we think. So, for example, we feel better and more relaxed in our minds if we actually relax our bodies. If our body is all tense then our whole being will be tense too. Try this one. Frown as if you are angry or upset…. got it?….. and then let the frown go as you relax your face. Do you feel better? Well I do!
There was a time when I didn’t realise this, so I thought that prayer (an activity of the mind) could affect our minds, but I didn’t believe it affected our bodies. Then I prayed for someone who had a stroke, thinking that my prayer would help her with her distress in the mind, only to discover that as well as taking away her distress, it actually took away much of her paralysis as well, and the next morning she could walk!
If we look at the Resurrection story, that we have just heard this morning, (Luke 24:35-48) we see Jesus teaching them this same truth. So, the disciples thought that their experience of the Risen Jesus was just in their minds – they expressed it as “they thought they were seeing a ghost”. This was a fair enough assumption wasn’t it, because in his risen body he did appear and disappear like a ghost; and yet the risen Jesus was much more than a ghost. His body was transformed and so was not subject to normal physical constraints, and yet he could still be touched and felt. So Jesus showed them that this was the case, and then went one step further and did one of the most ordinary physical thing possible – he ate the equivalent of a fish finger!
As Christians, we know that this physical experience of the Risen Jesus was given to the disciples for a fairly short time to really convince them that Jesus had defeated death, but that after this, they, and we, have to be content with a spiritual rather than a physical presence :- the knowledge that the risen Jesus is with us in our minds and our hearts; in the love and goodness of others; and in the sacraments – most especially in the most Holy Sacrament that we will soon have before us in the form of bread and wine.
But that doesn’t mean that this spiritual presence of Jesus in our lives only affects us spiritually. No, we too can be changed in all sorts of ways by the way we think – by linking ourselves spiritually by faith to the risen Jesus.
Our 1st Reading shows us this (Acts 3:13-19). We humans do not find it easy to forgive, and certainly not to forgive people who torture and kill someone we love. But in this story we see Peter saying quite clearly that these people who tortured and killed Jesus, can see a miracle can take place in their lives – that they, the very people responsible for the death of Jesus, can have their sins wiped out.
How can this take place? Peter says they must “repent”. But remember that “repent” does not mean just being sorry for our sins. No, no, much more important is our turning to God. If I am sorry for my sins, and then say, “And now I am going to grit my teeth, and try extra hard to change myself and be a better person.” , then I have missed the point. Repentance actually means changing the way that I think about myself, no longer relying simply on my own efforts, but accepting that without God to help me I will get nowhere fast. So St John says in our 2nd reading (1 John 2;1-5) “Jesus… is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s.” Praise be to Him!