08Apr 08 April. 2nd Sunday of Easter. (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Acts 4:32-37 + Psalm 118 + 1 John 5:1-6 + John 20:19-31

1st Reading: Acts (4:32-37)

Sharing among the followers of Jesus

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. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the feet of the apostles.

Responsorial Psalm (from Ps 118)

Response: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love is everlasting

Let the house of Israel say,
His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say,
His mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the Lord say,
His mercy endures forever. (R./)

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
My strength and my courage is the Lord,
and he has been my saviour.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just. (R./)

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 John 5:1-6)

About love and faith, and the witness that God has given to his Son

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,
and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know
that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his
commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers
the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus
is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus
Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood.
And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood,
and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony
of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified
to his Son.

Gospel: John (20:19-31)

The presence of the risen Jesus dispels fear and brings peace to his friends

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.

BIBLE

AGNOSTICS?

(José Antonio Pagola)

Few have helped us as much as Christian Chabanis to know the attitude of people today in the face of God. His famous interviews are an indispensible document to know what the most recognized scientists and thinkers of today think about God. He admits that, when he began his interviews with the most prestigious atheists of our days, he thought he would find in them a rigorous and well-founded atheism. In reality he found hidden behind their serious professions of lucidity and honesty, an “absolute absence of the search for truth”.

I’m not surprised at how one French writer responded to him, since something similar is going on among us. A great part of those who renounce belief in God do it without having initiated any type of effort whatsoever to seek God. I think above all that so many who confess being agnostics, sometimes in ostentatious ways, in reality are far away from a true agnostic position.

The agnostic is a person who raises the problem of God and, when they don’t find any reason to believe in God, suspend their judgment. Agnosticism is a search that ends in frustration. Only after having begun the search does the agnostic adopt his position: “I don’t know if God exists. I find no reason to believe in God or to not believe”.

The posture most common today consists in simply disengaging from the question of God. Many of those who call themselves agnostics are in reality people who aren’t looking. Xavier Zubiri would say that theirs are lives “without the will of real truth”. To them it matters little that God exists or doesn’t. It’s all the same whether life ends here or not. To them it’s enough to “live and let live”, abandon ourselves “to whatever”, without going deeper in the mystery of the world and of life.

But is that the most human posture in the face of reality? Can a life be presented as progressive, in which is absent the will to seek the ultimate truth of our life? Can it be affirmed that such is the only legitimate attitude when all is said and done? Can it be affirmed that such is the only legitimate attitude of intellectual honesty? How can one know that it’s not possible to believe if that person has never sought God?

To want to maintain a ‘neutral position’ without deciding for or against faith is to already make a decision. It’s really equivalent to refusing to seek an approximation to the ultimate mystery of reality.

The posture of Thomas isn’t that of an indifferent agnostic, but one of a person seeking to reaffirm his faith in his own experience. That’s why, when he meets Christ, he confidently opens himself to him: “My Lord and my God”. How much truth is contained in Karl Rahner’s words: “it easier to allow oneself to suffocate in total vacuum than in the abyss of God’s holy mystery, but the former doesn’t take more courage or more truth. When all is said and done, this truth shines forth if it is loved, if it is accepted, if it is lived as the truth that frees”.


Our Journey Towards Faith

How did any of us make the journey towards faith in Christ? No doubt a great part of it is simply what we received—usually from family. At some point, did I make a conscious choice? Did I perhaps at other times feel like walking away the faith project? What kept me going? Did a more personal own ership of faith result? Perhaps I can identify with the intuition of John O’Donoghue, “Faith is helpless attraction to the divine.”   Kieran O’Mahony. (for his exegesis of today’s texts, click here)

 


Opening doors

Most houses are well alarmed nowadays; the computerised alarm has become as basic an item as table and chairs. We also need to have good strong locks; long gone, at least in the cities and towns, are the days when you could just leave the key in the door, and let neighbours ramble in casually for a chat and a cup of tea. We are more fearful about our security than we used to be, and this fear and anxiety has led us to take more precautions to protect ourselves. Fear of what others can do to us tends to close us in on ourselves, not just in the physical sense of getting stronger door-locks, but also in other senses. We tend to be somewhat withdrawn around people whom we perceive to be critical. We are slow to open up to someone we think will judge us. We hesitate to share ideas and plans we might have with those who are known not to suffer fools gladly. Fear of others can often hold us back and stunt our growth.

The disciples had locked themselves into a room because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Even after Mary Magdalene rushed back excited  from the empty tomb shouting that she had seen the Lord, it was not enough to reassure them. What had been done to Jesus could be done to them. .. which led to them staying hidden in the attic room. The turning point came when the risen Christ appeared to them behind their closed doors and told them not to fear. He breathed the Holy Spirit into them, filling them new energy and hope, releasing them to share in his mission. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you,” he said. This helped them to leave their self-imposed prison, to go out bear witness to the risen Lord. This is how Luke pictures the disciples’ response to Easter. He goes on to show this fervent community witnessing to the resurrection both by word and by the quality of their living.

We can all find ourselves in the situation of those first disciples, locked in their hiding place. Any combination of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” can water down our commitment to following the Lord. Like the disciples in today’s gospel, we can be tempted to give up on our faith journey. The will to self-preservation can prevent us from doing what we are capable of doing with the Lord’s help. The wounds we carry from earlier, failed initiatives make us hesitate to try again. Even when someone seems full of enthusiasm and hope like a Mary Magdalene, we shrug it off. We let them get on with it, while we hold back and stay safe. The gospel reading today suggests a way out of our self-imposed confinement. If Magdalene makes no impact on us, the Lord will find another way to enter our lives and to fill us with new life and energy for his service. No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out. He finds a way to enter the space where we have chosen to retreat and he empowers us to resist what is holding us back. He does require some openness on our part; at the least some desire on our part to become what he is calling us to be. The risen Lord never ceases to recreate us and to renew us in his love. Easter is the season to celebrate the good news.

Just as the disciples were unmoved by the hopeful enthusiasm of Mary Magdalene who had seen the Lord, so Thomas was unmoved by the witness of the disciples who told him they too had seen the Lord. Thomas, it seems, was an even harder nut to crack than the other disciples. He is one of those people who insist on certain conditions being met before he makes a move, “Unless I see, I can’t believe.” As he had done with the other disciples, the Lord takes Thomas on his own terms. He accommodates himself to Thomas’ conditions and says, “Put your finger here.” The gospel today implies that the Lord meets us wherever we are. He takes us seriously in all our fears and doubts. The Lord is prepared to stand with us on our own ground, whatever that ground is, and from there he will speak to us a word suited to our personal state of mind and heart. We don’t have to get ourselves to some particular place in order for the Lord to engage with us. He takes himself to where we are, wherever it is a place of fear or of doubt. We might pray this Easter season for the openness to receive the Lord’s coming into the concrete circumstances of our own lives, so that we too might say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” We might also pray that, like the Lord, we would receive others where they are, rather than where we would like them to be.

 


Sharing his Peace

In August 1996 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago was told that a cancer which had been in remission had returned and that he had only a short time to live. He died about nine weeks later. During those two months he wrote a book covering the previous three years of his life, entitled, ‘The Gift of Peace.’ One of the worst experiences of his final years was a much publicized accusation of misconduct made against him by a young man called Stephen, who subsequently withdrew the accusation and admitted it was false. In his book, Bernardin describes meeting with his accuser. Stephen was dying of AIDS at the time, and he offered the cardinal an apology which was gently accepted. The cardinal offered Stephen a gift, a Bible in which he had inscribed words of forgiveness. Then he showed him a one hundred-year-old chalice, a gift from a man who asked him to celebrate Mass sometime for Stephen. The cardinal celebrated the Mass there and then in Stephen’s hospital ward. Later he described this meeting with his accuser as the most profound experience of reconciliation in his whole priestly life.

In our gospel story we find the disciples dispirited after the death of Jesus. They are ashamed of their failure to stay close to him in the hour of his passion and death. They are in a huddle, locking themselves away in a room. Suddenly Jesus stands among them and says, ‘Peace be with you’ and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. The risen Lord was reconciling and forgiving them. When they came to recognize themselves as forgiven  their hearts were filled with joy. Having experienced forgiveness, they are sent out to bring to others the same forgiveness they have received. “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” This mission is given to all of us who have been baptized into the risen Jesus. Having been reconciled to the Lord we are sent out to be reconcilers. There are  frequent possible moments of reconciliation: the daily forgiving of others; the saying ‘I am sorry’ when needed, and graciously accepting another’s offer of apology. In these moments, Jesus is among us, helping us to resolve situations that can be draining of life for everyone involved.

Thomas was absent when the risen Lord appeared to the other disciples. He had missed out on the bestowal of peace and forgiveness. He appears to have cut himself off from the community of the disciples and gone off on his own to nurse his wounds. He is not unlike so many today who, for various reasons, have cut themselves off from the church. When we leave the community of believers, we lose out greatly. For all its flaws and failings, the church is the place where we encounter the risen Lord. Jesus continues to stand among his disciples, especially when we gather in worship and pray, or serve others in the Lord’s name. It is there that we hear him say, ‘Peace be with you’, that we experience his forgiveness for our past failures, that we are called to go out as his witnesses. The community of disciples reached out to Thomas, to share with him their Easter faith, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ This reminds us of our calling to keep reaching out in faith to all those who, for whatever reason, have drifted away from the church and no longer gather with us.

We may well encounter the same negative response the first disciples got from Thomas, ‘I refuse to believe.’ Yet, even if our efforts seem to fail, we know that the Lord will keeps reaching out to us when we cut themselves off from the community of faith, just as he reached out to Thomas. ‘Doubt no longer’, Jesus said, ‘but believe.’ Then, out of the mouth of the sceptical Thomas came the greatest act of faith in all of the gospels, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Thomas Merton wrote in his book Asian Journal, ‘Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. One who has never experienced doubt is not a person of faith.’ There was a great honesty about Thomas; he didn’t pretend to believe when he didn’t. The gospel suggests that such honesty is not very far from authentic faith.


Machtnamh: Oscail na doirse (Open the doors)

Chuaigh na deisceabail i bhfolach i seomra uachtarach mar bhí eagla orthu roimh na húdaráis Giúdacha. Fiú amháin tar éis do Mháire Magdalene filleadh faoi deifir ón tuama folamh ag scairteadh go hrd go bhfacha sí an Tiarna beó, níor leor san iad a chur ar a suaimhneas. D’fhéadfaí an méid úafásach a rinneadh le h’Íosa a dhéanamh leo freisin. .. rud a d’fhág iad ag fanacht i bhfolach i seomra dúnta faoi ghlas. Ansan ar casadh na súl, teaspáineadh Íosa aiseirithe dóibh ar chúl na ndóirse dúnta … agus dúirt Sé gan eagla a bheith orthu níos mó. Bhronn Sé an Spioraid Naoimh 0rthu, á gchómhlánú le fuinneamh agus dóchas nua, chun go dtabharfaidís aghaidh ar an gnó a bhí rompu. “Mar a chuir an t-Athair mise chugaibh, mar sin táim do bhur seoladh” a dúirt sé. Chuidigh sé seo dóibh an seomra a fhágáil, chun fianaise a thabhairt faoin Tiarna aiseirithe. Sin mar a léiríonn Lúcás freagra na ndeisceabail Domhnach na Cásca. Thug na deisceabail úd fianaise don aiséirí trí fhocal agus ar tréithe a mbeatha.

One Response

  1. Joe O'Leary

    What is the resurrection? Can we believe it?

    I think these remain nagging questions for most of us, which is why we can identify so easily with “Doubting Thomas.” We have heard of the Resurrection, but we cannot see it. What justifies us in believing in it?

    The author of the Fourth Gospel, writing perhaps sixty years after the event, was well aware of this situation, and he surely expected his readers to identify with Thomas, as in previous chapters they will have identified with other interlocutors of Jesus: Nathanael, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the paralyzed man at the pool, the man born blind, Martha and Mary, for example.

    Several of these figures began in a dark place and ended up joyfully expressing faith in Jesus as the Messiah. That is also the trajectory followed by Thomas in today’s Gospel. Indeed it is he who utters the most impressive and most complete words of faith in the whole Gospel: “My Lord and my God!” As we meditate on this Gospel we put ourselves in Thomas’s shoes, sharing his confusion and doubt, and we are led by him to a new encounter with Christ, now glorified by the Father.

    To doubt is a sign of honesty, of a willingness to inquire and to listen in the search for truth. Faith is a virtue but credulity or gullibility is not. Thomas is right to check the other apostles’ story. He does bluster a bit, and perhaps in addition to being an honest inquiring man he is also affected by a negative spirit of skepticism, or of unbelief. When Jesus says to him, “do not be unbelieving” the meaning probably is “ask your questions and doubt what seems unworthy of belief, but don’t indulge in a negativity that rules out any perception of divine and spiritual realities from the start. Questioning is good, and leads to truth, but sometimes questioning becomes negative and obsessive and does not expect to find any answer — it becomes a form of resistance to encountering truth.”

    A mature believer will often reassess his or her faith, weeding out what is based on fancy or superstition, and adhering all the more to what is based on reliable perception of reality.

    This scene is not the first time Thomas has spoken in the Gospel. We met Thomas on two previous occasions. In the other Gospels all we learn about Thomas is his name as one of the Twelve.

    In the conversation that Jesus has with his disciples before going to visit Lazarus, in Bethany near Jerusalem, Jesus says: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:14-16).

    Here Thomas is seen as a person of total and devoted faith. He knows how dangerous it is to go to Jerusalem, where Jesus is already a marked man, and where the authorities are plotting to kill him. But he want to follow Jesus wherever Jesus goes, in a total identification with Jesus that may have something to do with his nickname “the twin.” He wants to be near Jesus in life and death, and perhaps that is part of what is expressed in his desire to touch Jesus’ risen body. At the very beginning of Jesus’s journey to his death, Thomas leaps forward and promises to die with him.

    Thomas shows his questioning mind in John 14:-4-7. “‘And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Thomas knows more than he thinks he knows. He asks blunt and literal-minded questions, but he really already knows Jesus as the way, having lived with him and followed him so faithfully. Knowing Jesus he knows the Father to whom Jesus leads. In a sense he has “seen” the Father, inasmuch as such a thing is possible in this life. “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:18).

    When Jesus says to Thomas in today’s Gospel: “You believe because you have seen me; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe,” he may be saying: “Thomas, you know me, and you have “seen” the Father by following me in faith, Now again you meet me and in me you meet the Father whom you cannot see. I understand your doubt about the message of the resurrection, but remember the path you have folllowed with me, how you have known me and through me how you have known the Father. I am the same Jesus in whose sufferings you shared; these wounds in my hands and side show that. But now I have entered into the glory to which the path you followed with me leads. Believe in me now, risen and glorious, as you believed in me on our hard journey to Jerusalem and on the evening before my passion and death.”

    “My Lord and my God” is the climax of the series of confessions of Christ in ths Gospel. It may mean: “My Lord who leads me to the Father, and my God, the Father. I recognize you as my risen Lord and in you I meet also the Father, for to see you is to see the Father.” The Greek here uses the expression “ho Theos” which otherwise occurred only at the start of the Gospel, where it referred to the Father: “the Word was with God (= ho Theos) and the Word was God (= theos, without the definite article). Jesus in his divine nature is God from God, and God toward God. He is true God, but he has his divinity from the Father, and his entire path is one of return to the Father. In this sense “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). He catches us up in this movement and leads us too to the joy of communion with the Father and the Son.

    We could say that the risen Jesus is the full visible manifestation of the invisible God. Of course, unlike Thomas, we do not have a vision of the risen Christ. But we do know Jesus and can follow him on his way to the Father — we know Jesus by faith, by listening to his words, meeting him in the sacraments, and recognizing him in our neighbour. He is the way, and his resurrection shows the glorious destination to which that way leads.

    “Blessed are those who have not seen but yet believe.” Why are they blessed? Not just because of their conviction about a hidden future, but because they know Christ in secure daily faith, following him as the Way. And as they follow him, practicing the works of love in a community of love, such as the first and second readings depict, they are more and more conscious of the presence of God in Christ and in their own life, and they grow in confidence that this way on which they are being led with their fellow-Christians is a way to life and glory.

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