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Pastor's Letter 20200419 - 19 April 2020 - Faith and Fellowship

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April 19th, 2020

2nd Sunday of Easter

A Message from Father Michael


Today’s Theme:  “Faith and Fellowship”

 The Healing of Community

 In the early days of Christianity, in Jerusalem, a communal life of “Koinonia,” or fellowship, brotherhood and communion was an important element in the life of the people.  Faith, like love, was constantly exposed to temptations of doubt and indifference.  Similarly, we need each other’s support today.  If we are fortunate to belong to a family where Christian fellowship is part of everyday life, we are blessed.  In such an atmosphere, those who practice Christian values of love, justice, mutual respect, decency and concern keep members of the family together and sustain faith.  

Fellowship should be part of every group in which we belong.  Of course a large group makes this more difficult, but it is possible.  Without being exclusive, you should gather to yourselves friends who share the same things as you in matters of faith, then contribute to the value of “belonging” for everyone.  Listen, and be open to others, exchanging ideas and experiences, sharing time and talents.  

Perhaps the most famous “loner” of the New Testament was Thomas. After Good Friday he mistakenly cut himself off from the other apostles and walked alone.  But we must remember that he was deeply grieving.  Such people have a tendency to isolate themselves. While it is understandable, it is not helpful.  In cutting himself off from the other apostles, Thomas made things more difficult for himself too.   However, it seems he had not cut himself off completely.  Whenever he met them he surely would have noticed a difference in them—their fear was largely gone, having been replaced by joy and peace.  Clearly someone had breathed new life into them, for they claimed to have seen Jesus.  But Thomas refused to take their word for it.  He had to be sure.  (We can sympathize with Thomas. He was merely echoing the human cry for certainty.  However, here on earth there is no such thing as absolute certainty about spiritual things. If there were, faith would not be necessary.)  Eventually he rejoined the apostles, and regained the support of the community.  When he touched the wounds of Christ, the true greatness of Jesus dawned on him; his doubts vanished; and his faith was reborn.  Finally, he realized how Jesus had proven His love for them. He did not just talk about life; He exemplified the perfect life and had the wounds to prove it.  In truth, Thomas was the one who was wounded.  His mind was darkened by doubt; his heart was broken with grief.  Even though these wounds were invisible, they were very real and very painful. But Jesus was able to see them, and it was He Who touched Thomas wounds, and so made him whole and well again.

Whenever we go to worship in the House of God, our presence creates a “current” making it easier for others to come.  One week our faith may be weakened; we may feel apathetic. Then, the current carries us along—and, who knows?  Next week my faith may be strong and my enthusiasm may help to carry someone else! This is the sense of community that Thomas must have felt, and in so doing, He found Jesus, again.  To be a believer, or simply a spiritual person in today’s world can be a lonely business.  We need each others’ support.  Sometimes, only with the help of community can our doubts be resolved, and our faith renewed.  Living as members of a community, our common faith strengthens the faith of each individual. We see the kind of faith the first Christians enjoyed—supporting one another with prayer and worship—and the loving relationship of service to one another this fostered.  Our ministry  consists not so much in doing things for each other as in traveling together, listening and learning.

The True Greatness of Jesus 

Many of us probably have an “idealized” picture of Jesus.  If were to meet the real Jesus, especially the Jesus of the Passion, we might not recognize Him; we might not even want to know Him.   Jesus’ death had a similar affect on the apostles.  They had come to believe, or at least hope that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.  They pictured Him as a great leader and a triumphant conqueror.  The idea of a suffering and crucified Messiah was unthinkable.  So when He was killed, their hopes were shattered.     Jesus’ greatness lay in the fact that, despite being bruised, beaten and broken in body, He still went on loving.  Therein His true greatness shone, through which He proved His love for us and attained to glory.  Most importantly, in that way He showed us the path we must follow. 

Sometimes we are confronted by our heroes in everyday life.  When this happens, we often are surprised they are not the “glossy images” we have come to believe them to be—thanks to the magic of Hollywood, or other glamour-related enterprises.  At those times we learn that the fictional characters we have admired are simply that—fictional.  Their splendid beauty has been “airbrushed” into existence by “Max Factor” and superb lighting—their memorable lines spoken from scripted compositions of myriad talented writers for maximum effect.  In reality, they are less than their images—they are human beings just like you and I.  We don’t like our idols to be “normalized.”  We want to believe the fantasy, and in so doing, believe that we, too, can attain to such greatness—or maybe that we already do….   

The images of a defeated, broken, bruised and crucified Christ we see on many crucifixes hardly mirrors the reality of the event.  Most have been stylized to “soften” the horror.  Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ came closest of any prior film in its portrayal of the excruciating agony He suffered.  But even then, as mesmerized audiences watched actor James Caviezel writhe in torment, we were separated from the reality of the action, spared the vicarious torment (and the smells) of the distress.  The film spurred the imagination of the audiences around the world, however, and propelled resurgence in understanding for the Passion.  A groundswell of converts was counted, particularly in America, as many found their empathy changed to faith.  A realization that a human being could have endured such a trial in the name of redemption, because He was the incarnate Son of God, brought many to their knees and to the altar of salvation.   

But for the apostles, it wasn’t so clear-cut. They had followed Jesus for three years, seeing His miracles, hearing His words, and hoping He would somehow be transformed into a glorious Messiah.  Their image of Jesus’ redemption was one of anticipation of an eventuality that was wholly dashed by His passion and crucifixion!  When we heard the account of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, we were impressed with the incredulity of the women and the disciples.  Nothing about it made sense to them.  From the depths of their despair they couldn’t have seen how spectacular Christ’s Resurrection would be.  

And so, later, when He appeared to them in the Upper Room--physically, actually alive--only then did the reality begin to take shape.  It had to be like the moment we discovered that one of our screen icons was discovered only to be “human,” only to find later that were actually the true champion we had envisioned.  (This happens in actuality, for us, when we see one of our “superstars” performing “humanitarian efforts" for the good of the “little people!”)    At such times, we are imbued with pride at having believed in them in the first place!

Our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ is just such a “Superstar.”  His loving, caring, beautiful persona has been reanimated for us in  glory as the resurrected Savior!  The Hero we always believed Him to be has been realized in actuality!  And it is not a “one off” occurrence, that happened some two millennia ago, but one in which we can “revel” every moment of our lives. He lives!  He is with us in all His splendor and glory...NOW!  And how blessed are we that we can partake of His essence every time we receive the Holy Eucharist—and then again, when we leave this earthly life and become one with Him, again, for all eternity!

The Human Need “To Touch” 

Tourists typically are moved to take pictures, buy souvenirs and memorabilia when they visit noteworthy places.  This is especially true with pilgrims in the Holy Land. There is a compelling need to touch and kiss things!  They collect many little items to take back home to remind them of their encounter—a leaf, a wild flower, a pebble, a bottle of water, some sand—something tangible to show their friends and loved ones; something with which they can rekindle the memories of their trip.  And, herein, I am talking about people whose faith is sound and sure.   Students who study the sciences attend required laboratory classes in addition to their lectures, in order to reinforce the principles they learn with physical experimentation.  Even studies in the social sciences are reinforced by clinical exercises in order to give disciples opportunities to experience their lessons in real life.  Such activities express the universal human need for the visible, the concrete, the tangible.  This hunger for proof is part of our human nature.  It is the essence of our humanity.  Having faith doesn't dismiss the prudence of our quest for physical knowledge.    In fact, today’s story about Thomas echoes the normal human cry for certainty.  Nevertheless, as regards the supernatural, the "meta-physical," we have to go beyond all this.  On earth there is no such thing as absolute certainty about spiritual things.  If there were, there would be no need for faith, at all.   

Similar to many other lifeforms on earth, from our earliest moments, we crave the "touch" of another human being.  It has been demonstrated that even premature infants benefit immensely from the "skin-to-skin" touch of a caregiver.  So it is no surprise when we say that the human heart is healed only by the presence of another human being, who understands human pain.  Therefore, in a vicarious manner, our blessed Lord’s wounds help us to recognize our own wounds and to find healing for them.   Caused by His love for all of us, they were “the proof” that He suffered for our sake.   How frail is the human container in which the gift of faith is carried!  But it shows us that Christian faith is essentially faith in a Person, Who loves us and Who has the wounds—the mortal wounds of the Good Shepherd--to prove it.  It's not simply our faith in God that is at the heart of Biblical faith, but God’s faith in us!   Jesus’ sayings to Thomas: “You believe in Me because you have seen Me [and touched Me;]"  and, "Blessed are those who have not seen and who believe!” are actually little “digs” at our human stubbornness, for it was also meant as an encouragement for us who are asked to believe without physical evidence….  

The Role of Faith   (Anonymous)

Some people think that if you have enough faith

Life will be plain sailing for you...but this is not so.

The fact that we can swim doesn’t prevent us from being knocked about by the waves!

In the same way, faith doesn’t shield us from the hard knocks of life or death.

“What then,” you may ask, “does faith do?”

Faith give us bearings and thus enables us to live in a topsy-turvy world without getting lost of giving in to despair.

Just as swimmers trust—If they don’t panic, and if they do a few simple things—the power of the sea to uphold them.

So, believers should entrust their lives to a Power greater than themselves—a Power greater than us all.

This is the Power of God, Who brought back His Son, Jesus, from the dead.

May God Richly Bless You!


-       “If Jesus is the model of perfect faith, and his twin is Thomas, who models doubt, 

-       then what we understand is that faith and doubt are not antitheses—they’re twins.” 
 Mark Schaefer, The Certainty of Uncertainty

God is Working His Purpose Out.docx

God is Working His Purpose Out.mp3



Edited by Father Michael
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