Pastoral Sharings: "Second Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessageFather Alex McAllister SDS
April 27, 2014
Second Sunday of Easter

Very often you see pictures of St Thomas touching the wound in Christ?s side but in actual fact the Gospel does not record this event. Christ certainly showed him his wounds but it is never mentioned that Thomas reached out his hand to actually touch them. 

Interestingly, apart from this incident, Thomas is portrayed in the Gospels as being very brave. In the account of the raising of Lazarus that we heard on the last Sunday of Lent when Jesus gets the message of Lazarus? illness and he decides to go up to Jerusalem we find Thomas saying, ?Let us go too and die with him.? 

These are not the words of a timid and fearful man; a man beset by doubts. And yet when the other Apostles tell him of their meeting with the Risen Lord, which for some unknown reason he had missed, Thomas flatly refuses to believe them. 

What Thomas had missed out on was an encounter with the Risen Christ. And, no matter what the other Apostles said, he refused to believe. He wasn?t open to persuasion or reasoning. 

And I think we have to say, ?Rightly so!? After all, faith does not come from reasoning or from what anyone else tells us. Faith is a gift of God and it principally comes though an encounter with the Lord. 

In Thomas? case this was the actual presence of the Risen Jesus who showed him the wounds of his crucifixion. For St Paul it was his Damascus experience. 

In every case, let me suggest, faith comes through an encounter with the Lord. Mostly these are not physical encounters like that of Thomas, but they are just as real nonetheless. 

Each one of us comes to faith by a different route. Things happen to us on life?s journey that help us to see the hand of God at work in our lives. 

As a child we might be brought up by our parents to believe in God and we grow up accustomed to pray each day. In this way prayer becomes a natural and even essential part of our lives. 

But this is not merely the saying of prayers. What our parents have initiated us into is a dialogue with the Lord ?with a person, with God himself. Each time we pray we are entering into an encounter with God. 

At some point or other the young person faces the criticism of others and they question whether this is a real dialogue or whether they are just talking to themselves. If their prayers are more than merely superficial then they may well come to the realisation that this is no empty dialogue but a real and meaningful conversation with the Lord. And through this insight their faith is strengthened and moves to a new and deeper level. As life goes on our faith is validated by all sorts of events and occurrences. I clearly remember talking to a group of secondary school pupils. We were discussing prayer and I asked them if they ever felt that their prayers were answered. 

One girl said that together with her whole family she had prayed very hard for her grandmother who had cancer. She explained that although they had prayed for a cure the grandmother actually got worse and eventually died. 

Nevertheless she felt that her prayers had been answered because her grandmother had died peacefully and was happy to go to God. It was also clear that her own faith had been strengthened by this and that she felt closer to God and to her family as a result. Thomas said that he wanted proof. He said that unless he could put his hand in the wounds he would not believe. But when Christ appeared to him that was enough, he never reached his hand out to touch the wounds. 

Instead he fell to the ground with the great words ?My Lord and my God? on his lips. Throughout his life Thomas never lacked courage. Tradition has it that he preached the Gospel in many different countries ultimately travelling as far as India where he was martyred. As we have heard together with Jesus he set out on the road to Jerusalem saying to his fellow Apostles, ?Let us go too, and die with him.? Well, he certainly got his wish even if he had to wait a few years for it! 

His faith was surely tested more in that final moment of his death than it ever was before. But in the end he remained resolute. His words to Jesus, ?My Lord and my God? or something very like them were surely on his lips as he gave up his spirit. 

Thomas had the extraordinary privilege of knowing Jesus in the flesh and also of meeting him in his risen form. But the greatest encounter of all was at the moment of his own martyrdom when he was drawn into the presence of God in heaven. 

It is this final and ultimate encounter that we are all preparing for. And the best preparation of all is for us to open our eyes and see the hand of God in our lives and for us to spend time in prayer and dialogue with him, but most of all by sharing his body and blood in the Eucharist. 

It is in these ways that our faith is fed and strengthened. It is by doing these things that at that final moment, with God?s grace, we will make that great and wonderful prayer of Thomas our own.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
April 27, 2014

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Gospel John 20:19-31

The Gospel begins with Easter Sunday and ends with the Sunday after Easter. On Easter Sunday the disciples were still mourning the death of Jesus, and even though they had heard reports that the tomb was empty and that Jesus is Risen, this reality was too much for them to accept and they remained in fear hidden away behind the locked doors of the upper room. This was same upper room where they had only days earlier celebrated the Passover with Jesus and were probably already referring to it as the “Last Supper.” While Jesus had been buried in a tomb of rock, the upper room was becoming their tomb.

Second Sunday of Easter: Doubts, Divine Mercy and St. John Paul II
The Sunday after Easter always presents the event that took place in the Upper Room one week after Jesus rose from the dead.  Pope John Paul II also designated this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday.  And today the world celebrated the Canonization of this pope whom so many refer to as John Paul the Great. I believe I can tie all three of these themes together.

Doubting Thomas
The Gospels tell an incredible story.  A virginal conception.  Miraculous healings.  Even people coming back from the dead.  How are we to know that it’s not all just a fanciful fabrication? 

There is much evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, but here is one of the strongest bits of evidence I know.  Think for a minute.  If you were part of a group who decided to perpetrate an elaborate hoax, what would be your motive?  Wouldn’t you want to gain some significant benefits from such a risky business?  Maybe fortune, fame, and privilege?  And if you were to be prominent figures in this tall tale, wouldn’t you at least want the story to make you look good?

Second Sunday of Easter, Year A (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Gospel (Read Jn 20:19-31)

The celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday usually focuses on the sheer ecstasy of His victory over death. All during Holy Week, we are absorbed with the details of His horrific Passion. When we reach Easter, our hearts nearly burst with joy that Jesus is alive and vindicated as God’s Son. In other words, it’s easy to dwell on the fact of the Resurrection and be so dazzled by it that we do not think much beyond that. The mercy of Divine Mercy Sunday (yes, intended pun) is that now we begin to meditate on the meaning of the Resurrection. Today’s Gospel gets us started.

Jesus Died to Save You – What Does THAT Mean???
You see the signs beside the highway blazoned “Jesus Saves”. You hear the religious slogans from Catholics and Protestants, “Jesus died to save you from your sins.” or “Jesus blood was shed to wash away your sins.”

I’m sympathetic when I hear modern secularists say with frustration, “What on earth does that mean??!! How can the death of a criminal two thousand years ago cleanse away my ‘sins’?”

The Five-Fold Argument for the Resurrection
The New Testament consists of first-century, seemingly first-hand accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also claims to be an eyewitness account and makes some mighty bold claims about what the authors saw and heard. Yet a first-century audience (that is, an audience which would have been able to call “shenanigans” if the authors were just making things up) believed these accounts, copied them, and spread them both textually and orally throughout the entire Roman Empire and to faraway places like India.

Live Out Divine Mercy
According to both Blessed John Paul II and Saint Faustina Maria Kowlasksa, the virtue of mercy is the greatest attribute in the Heart of Jesus. This being the case we should strive to understand this virtue and even more important try to live it out to the full.

Honoring Two Beloved Popes
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to flock to Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, for the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II.

But for those Americans who can’t make the trans-Atlantic trip, there will be plenty of fanfare and celebration stateside, as two of the 20th century’s most beloved popes become saints.

I Can Tell He Loves Me
The old saying is that all roads lead to Rome. 

And that has been my experience being here over the last two days.The faithful are flocking into Rome from all corners of the globe, with various countries waving their flags, and every language imaginable being spoken.

Two Modern Saints for the Modern World
Pope Francis shook the Catholic world on July 5th, 2013, with the announcement that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II will be canonized together on April 27th, 2014.

Pope Francis approved the healing of Floribeth Mora of Costa Rica from a brain aneurysm as miraculous, making it the second approved miracle attributed to the beloved Polish pope who passed away in 2005. The first miracle was the healing of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who had been afflicted with Parkinson’s disease—the very ailment that John Paul II suffered from. Both of these women prayed for John Paul’s intercession and both of their prayers have been answered.

3 Things Catholics Need to Confidently Reclaim and Own Again
I’m thinking of a person who describes himself as a Christian, gets his beliefs from the Bible, and has a passion for sharing Jesus with others. What kind of person comes to mind?

I bet the first thought most people have is an evangelical Protestant.

But not a Catholic.

And that’s a problem.

Seek the Lord’s Will, Even in Uncertainty
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a direct connection to Heaven — a phone line by which we could call God Himself and ask questions such as “Lord, what’s the easiest way for me to solve this problem?”; or “Father, how much longer do I have to put up with this situation?”; or “God, I really don’t know what it is that You want me to do; will You please show me?” There have been such cases recorded; the Old Testament hero Moses, for instance, used to talk to God face-to-face,123 (123 Exod. 33:11) and the Apostles were able to question Jesus whenever they wanted. Many mystics and visionaries throughout the centuries have allegedly held conversations with Jesus or one of the saints, and there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of persons today who claim to be in contact with Heaven.

At the Gate Called “Beautiful.” What the Miracle by Peter and John Teaches us about our Spiritual Journey
At the daily masses of the Easter Octave, we have been reading about, among other things, the story of a paralyzed man whom Peter and John encounter just outside the Temple at the Gate called “Beautiful.” This paralyzed man’s story is our story and as we read it we learn something of our own spiritual journey to the Lord and to heaven, symbolized here by the Temple. Let’s look at this moving story, as it is not merely the recounting of an event taking place 2000 years ago; rather it is our story.

God is Not a Vending Machine
“If God is so good and loving, if He’s really there at all, why didn’t He answer my prayer?” This question has been asked by atheists and agnostics and doubters and believers and skeptics and observers and disinterested third-parties alike. For some it presents a serious challenge to their faith, or to the possibility of their having any faith at all.

The Dignity of Dying
Within the last month we’ve marked the anniversaries of two important deaths that, while linked inextricably because of when they occurred, could not have been more different.

Does Faith Need Culture? Answers from Scripture & the Church
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”

(John 10:10 ).

Is culture something necessary for the life of faith? Or, is it rather a distraction? Does it pull us further away from a focus on the next life, by rooting us in the things of the earth? Is it a temptation to try to build a lasting city, when Hebrews says “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (13:14).

The Meal at Emmaus – Jesus’s Todah
The story of Jesus’s journey to Emmaus has to be one of favorite stories in the whole of Scripture. Cleophas and another disciple were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, devastated by their Master’s crucifixion only days before , and utterly bewildered by the women’s report of the empty tomb, when Jesus sidled up alongside them and struck up a conversation. “What are you discussing?”  Then, while preventing their eyes from recognizing him, Jesus “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk. 24:27).  And as if that wasn’t enough, after he accepted their invitation to dinner, “he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.” (Lk. 24:30-31).

Are There Souls in Hell Right Now?
It has become fashionable in some Catholic quarters these days to question where there are now or will ever be any souls populating hell. Hell, it is taught, is a “real possibility,” but whether there are any souls actually there, or whether there will ever be any souls there, is unknown to us.

It is, of course, true that hell is a “real possibility” for each of us. And that is a sobering thought. But it is also true that souls are actually in hell now, and will be for all eternity. This is a teaching of our Catholic Faith.

Origins of the Rosary
The rosary is one of the most cherished prayers of our Catholic Church. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”

Knights’ success built on founder’s desire for charity
In many ways, Father Michael J. McGivney was just one more of that band of hardworking Irish-American priests who spent themselves building up the Church in America in the latter years of the 19th century. But in one truly extraordinary respect, he was unique: Before he was 30, Michael McGivney had founded what was to become the largest Catholic men’s organization in the world: the Knights of Columbus.

Why Catholics Must Reject Elite Culture
It seems that Catholics have been getting nowhere in the public square lately. The problem is not just losing ground on this issue or that, but an increasing inability to get our issues recognized as real and legitimate. That’s true not only with moral issues, but also with more basic ones like the rationality of religion and the very existence of human nature.

Why Catholicism Is Preferable to Protestantism
My new book, The Protestant’s Dilemma, shows in a myriad of ways why Protestantism is implausible. We sifted through many arguments to boil the book down to the most essential. A few chapters didn’t make the cut but are still good enough to share.
Here’s one of them.

Mao Thought He Could Eliminate Religion, He Was Wrong
China, according to the Telegraph, may very well be home to more Christians than any other country in the world by 2030. I know that seems like some futuristic date but hey, that’s only 15 years.

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

How To Pass A Personhood Amendment
Everybody knows that Roe v. Wade created a national right to kill your unborn children, and everybody knows that the #1 item on the pro-lifer To-Do list is “Overturn Roe v. Wade.” However, once Roe is overturned, we’ll still have a lot of work to do. Abortion will be a state issue. Unfortunately, most state courts would gladly recreate Roe v. Wade at the state level, using the state constitution to magic abortion rights back into existence. Some have already done this. Meanwhile, although many states provide some legal protections to unborn children, these protections are not considered inalienable human rights; they could be completely repealed with a single legislative act.

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