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March 28, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 11

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: Dn. Christopher Colville

believe as you pray

2nd Sunday of Easter

Acts 5: 12-16
Rev 1: 9-11b, 12-13, 17-19
John 20: 19-31

I think Thomas gets the short straw in the Gospel reading. We don’t know where he was that first night after the Resurrection, maybe they needed food or drink because they were planning on hiding out there for a while. Maybe he just needed some time alone to sort out all the events of the past four days. Regardless of the reason, he wasn’t there. It could have been one of the other twelve. It could be us.

Put yourself in Thomas’ position and forget we have the Gospels and other New Testament writings. You traveled with Jesus for three years, he performed all these great miracles, talked about peace and love and preached that the Kingdom of God is at hand. You had come to believe that he was the one to save Israel. Then it all began to unravel for you. Thursday night after the Passover meal, like a servant he washed your feet and everyone else’s in the room. Then he told you to do the same in service to others. After the meal you all went to the garden to pray and that is when it went horribly wrong. While he was praying a group of temple guards came and arrested him, the next day he was tried, tortured and then crucified. Then he was placed in the tomb.

On the first day of the week you need time by yourself so you go off alone. When you get back, the group tells you that he is alive and that he appeared to them, stood in their midst. How would you react? I wonder how many of us would have reacted the same way Thomas did. I wonder how many of the other eleven would have reacted the same way. I dare say that our reaction and those of the other disciples would have been the same as Thomas’. In calling him “Doubting Thomas” we are really calling him “Human Thomas.”

There is nothing wrong with doubts. The Scriptures are filled with people who doubted. Doubting leads to questioning and questioning leads to faith. We initially come to faith because of others. However, our faith is developed and strengthened through questioning and searching out the answers. We discover answers to many of our questions in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and other Scriptures.

It is important for us to realize that just like we initially came to faith through people in our lives, others can experience God through us. Like Peter and the Apostles, others can experience God in our presence, in our words, in our faith. They can also experience God in our doubts and our questioning.

The Apostles were troubled, grieving, and scared; Jesus came to them and his opening words were “Peace be with you”. They experienced God’s mercy through Jesus and as we hear in Acts, others were able to experience God’s mercy through them. The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend reminds us that we also experience God’s mercy in our lives. Just as others experienced God’s mercy through the Apostles, people in our lives can experience God’s mercy through us. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to share that mercy with our world.

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in light of faith

Back to the Future: A Post Resurrection Story

Have you ever wondered about the women who set out with spices to anoint the body of Jesus on that first Easter morning?

They were the same women who had remained on Calvary and saw Jesus entombed without a proper burial because the Sabbath was fast approaching.

Surely they had witnessed the placing of the huge stone at the entrance of the tomb, and yet it did not deter them from their mission.

How would they gain access to Jesus’ body? Who would roll away the stone?

Did these women possess the combined strength it would take to carry out their task?

Could it be that they were hoping to see some of the apostles there?

As Christians, we know the answer to these questions, but in real time, these bold women of faith were not privy to the Resurrection story. And yet, despite unanswered questions and inconceivable obstacles, they continued the journey. Compelled by love, it seems they could do no less. They continued to believe in Jesus even after witnessing his terrible crucifixion and death.

Their journey from Calvary to the tomb was a journey from faith to faithfulness. As faithful followers of Jesus, their journey took them from witnessing Jesus’ miracles to the scene of his murder.

But their love for him did not end there. Though consumed with grief, they did not allow it to paralyze them. Instead they set out to minster to Jesus even when they thought he was dead.

Unable to quell the desire to serve their Master, they followed their heart’s deepest longing to be near Jesus, no matter that conventional wisdom would deem them foolish.

The determination of these women serves as an ongoing example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and begs the question: what about us? Do we believe only when things are going our way, or do we remain faithful in the presence of criticism, rejection and obstacles of every kind?

Do we remain faithful disciples in the presence of family discord, illness or financial problems or do we become bitter and cynical or indulge in self-pity?

Do we allow our weaknesses or past failures to stand in the way of a mission that we are being called to embrace?

Like the women at the tomb who were sent to tell the Good News, we are being called to go and tell our brothers and sisters what we have seen. When the apostles heard the testimony of the women, they ran to the tomb half in disbelief, half out of curiosity.

But then isn’t that the way of human beings? We demand proof, we look for signs. It is why we relate so well to Thomas who demanded proof before he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead despite his witnessing Jesus bring Lazarus back to life.

We don’t know a lot about the women who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning but we do know that one of them was Mary Magdalene from whom seven devils had been cast out.

She knew what it was like to be imprisoned by evil and she knew what it was like to be set free.

For the Magdalene, there was no going back. After the others left the tomb site, Mary stayed behind and wept. She could not bear life without Jesus. She even begged the gardener to tell her where Jesus’ body was taken.

In the midst of her grief, Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until he called her by name. And so it is with us.

We have all been called by name but unlike Mary, more often than not, we fail to recognize Jesus who is standing in our midst in the person or situation that needs our attention.

Caught up in the business of our lives, we may turn a deaf ear or fail to see the person of Christ in the person on the street, the cashier who is moving slower than we would like, or in a family member who is in need of a smile or a word of encouragement.

In a recent interview, Pope Francis reminded us that God does not hide himself from us. He dwells among us but his presence cannot be contrived, it must be found.

Numerous saints have proclaimed that God is found in the messiness of everyday life. St. Teresa of Avila told her nuns, they could find him in the pots and pans as surely as in the chapel.

This is not to diminish the importance of prayer, but reminds us that we cannot restrict God’s presence to the Church. Francis of Assisi encountered Jesus in the leper whom he embraced on the road and Mother Teresa found him in the streets of Calcutta.

So where will we find Christ?

Like the women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday, we are on a journey, but no two journeys are alike. If we take the time to listen, we will hear our name being called, not once but again and again until at life’s end we will hear the words we long to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your Master’s happiness.” (Matt. 25; 23)

And then, we too shall rise with Christ and encounter God in the fullness of Divine glory.

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