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Pastor's Letter 20210411 - 11 April 2021 - Faith and Fellowship


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April 11th, 2021

Second Sunday of Easter

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“Doubting Thomas”

A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “Faith and Fellowship”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

In our First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4:32-35,) Luke sketches an ideal picture of his Christian community that is ideally faithful to the Gospel.  It was one of shared faith and shared possessions—as given in the teaching of the apostles, breaking of the bread and prayers.  The motivation for the generous distribution is spelled out: “…there was not a needy person among them.”  There is no romantic glorification of poverty, rather a preoccupation for the needs of the poor.

In the Liturgy for the Sundays of Easter, our Second Reading, taken from the first letter of John, attests to his purpose not to exhort his readers to practice virtue, but to make them understand their conditions as Christians.  John defines this as having a vital relationship to God.  Stressing the vocation to love their fellows, it is made ever more palatable by the understanding of their share in Christ’s victory over the powers of evil (1 John 5:1-6.)  

God is light in that He is the absolute Good, directing our moral conduct modeled on His justice.  He is love because He is the source of all tenderness and generosity that the verb “to love” suggests.  Christians are called to walk in the Light and to abide in Love by observing the commandments—summed up in the two precepts of faith in God and works of interpersonal charity.  As an effect, Christians are called by taking their stand against the unbelieving world; resolutely eschewing material allure; and becoming bolstered by confidence in the person of the Savior.  This enables believers to display a practicality that calmly accepts the realities of human existence.  

All the promises Jesus made to His disciples—concerning His abiding presence; the gift of the Paraclete; forgiveness, peace and eternal life—find their fulfillment in today’s Gospel selection that outlines the mission the Risen Christ entrusted to His disciples (John 20:19-3.) This mirrors the mission Jesus, Himself, received from the Father—accomplished by His death and resurrection: the reconciliation of all men and women with their Father (through the forgiveness of their sins.)  His use of the common Jewish salutation, “Peace be with you”—Hebrew: Shalom—evokes a gift from God, establishing a relationship of harmony and friendship.  This gift was not merely between the Israelite and neighbor, but also between the Israelite and God.  During His lifetime, Jesus declared that the world cannot give true peace, so He had come to bestow it.  As the glorified Lord, He communicates His peace to the disciples, binding them to Himself and to one another in a union of love and harmony.

At once, they were “enlivened and inspired” by the Holy Spirit for their task ahead, being called to be “one body” with Christ, in the world.  One notable effect of the Spirit, the power to forgive sins, is found in today’s lesson.  (The Church’s use of the sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance is one valid and legitimate way of exercising the power over sin given by the Risen Jesus to His disciples.)

The familiar episode of †Thomas’ doubt is greatly important and climactic in †John’s Gospel.  Thomas’ struggle is a source of encouragement for believers of all ages.  He should not be remembered merely for his “doubt,” but for his forthright confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”—the supreme Christological conviction.  (In this declaration, Thomas addressed Jesus in the same manner Israel had long spoken to Yahweh.)  Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed,” encourages the faith of all of us who do not see or touch Jesus, but who still hope and believe in His abiding presence, and future appearance.

Touching is Believing

Most of us are reluctant to have anyone “touch” painful places on our bodies.  In fact, when we are “in pain,” most of us are very reluctant to have anyone near us at all—quite a different attitude to that when we feel “good.”  While this is understandable, it is also a mistake.  Healing rarely happens if we will not allow our wounds to be seen and touched.  

The central character in today’s Gospel, Thomas, had fled the scene, with the other apostles, before Jesus was crucified.  He missed the glorified Jesus’ first appearance.  The first thing Jesus did was show him His own wounds—feeling no need to hide them, as they were proof of His love.  They were the mortal wounds of the Good Shepherd, suffered in the defense of His flock.  

But, in truth, Thomas was the wounded one.  He was wounded by grief, loneliness, doubt and despair.  In his pain he wanted to be left alone.  Even though his wounds were invisible, they were very real. Jesus saw his pain, and was able to “touch” †Thomas’ wounds, making him whole, and well again.   It was by touching and being touched that he was made whole again.  It is by showing our wounds, by touching and being touched, that we are healed.  The human heart is healed only by the presence of another human being who understands human pain.  

What is Essential is Invisible

Today’s world is replete with “doubting Thomases.”   Like him, they also will not come to believe unless they can touch Jesus’ wounds and see the radiance of His face.  This only happens now if He is seen to be alive in His followers….  Doubt stems from the prevailing belief that everything can be rationally explained.  We think, “If something is obscure, all we have to do is approach it with a ray of scientific light, and it will become clear.”

Of course, we must be guided by reason…but we also must listen to our imaginations and hearts.  Some aspects of life simply cannot be understood purely rationally…science cannot explain everything!  

If we adopt Thomas initial approach, we condemn ourselves to life in a purely material world.  Some of life’s most important ingredients can neither be seen nor touched—like, “quality,” and emotional factors, like “intention.”  Some layers of reality exist that elude the senses, but are, nevertheless, absolutely real.  Visible reality represents only part of the greater world, while not considering those characteristics from which much significance is often drawn.  

On many occasions, “seeing” and “hearing” can become crutches, preventing our thinking, feeling and imagining.  This is evidenced in the experiences of handicapped people, who often demonstrate more perception than those who are without disabilities.  Vision, insight, understanding, perception—all have little to do with seeing.  Still many people prefer “facts” to “vision.”  

When someone knows something, deeply, within their soul, they don’t need to argue about it or prove it.  They simply “know it,” and that’s enough.  We are not sufficiently aware of the importance of that, which we cannot know intellectually, and must be known in more intuitive ways.  

So, we can sympathize with Thomas. He merely echoed the human cry for certainty.  However, on earth, there is no certainty about God and spiritual realities.  We have to be content in knowing them as we might a “dim reflection in a mirror.”  We are not looking through an open door, but peering through a “crack.”  It may be sufficient to let some light through, but not so big as to eliminate the wonder and the mystery.

Too much light, or too little, and we are blind…. Rationalists approach God and religion as something that can be understood and explained; mystics approach God as something mysterious that can neither be understood nor explained, but only experienced.  Faith takes us where our senses cannot go.  But ask yourself: “Which is the stronger: faith without doubts, or faith that contends with doubt?”

May God Richly Bless You!

“There is enough light for those who want to see and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”

~~Blaise Pascal~~ 

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here: https://youtu.be/5r9N7XbD73c

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Edited by Father Michael
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