23 April 20172 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Easter
Second Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 20:19-31

The Emperor Caesar Augustus gave a citizen a magnificent jewel. The man said, "This is too much for me to accept. Caesar said, "Perhaps, but it is not too much for me to give."

Last Sunday, the Lord signaled the apostles that though they had deserted Him on Good Friday, He forgave them. Today He faxes Thomas the message He forgives him for his disbelief in the Resurrection despite reliable eyewitnesses. Put these points in your mental computer. They are important for all of us.

Jesus' followers continued to meet after Easter in the Upper Room of Last Supper fame. Since it was owned by a friend, the price was right. And good thing too. The apostles were broke. Weekly church envelopes and second collections had not yet been invented.

Check it out that John is anxious for us to know that it was the first day of the week. If you play Sherlock Holmes, you will discover that "the first day of the week" is mentioned in the New Testament a remarkable seven times. These Christ followers wanted us to understand that Sunday had already become the Lord's Day. So, our gathering at Sunday Liturgy as a Jesus community is no accident. We have taken our cue from the apostles.

The disciples were sitting about relaxing and exchanging gossip. Perhaps they had finished celebrating the Eucharist. Their Easter dinner would be bargain Chinese take-out. Suddenly the resurrected Lord bursts into their company. Surely several of them fell off their chairs. One or two others must have clutched their hearts and put a Nitro pill under their tongue.

His "Peace be with you!" had much more punch than our limp "Have a nice day." A free translation would mean, "May God give you every wonderful good!" When you consider Jesus is divine, the apostles had to feel good all over immediately.

Thomas alone had expected the assassination of Jesus from day one. Recall the time the Christ proposed leaving His mountain hideout and going to a town where the cops were looking for Him. Eleven of the apostles ran scared and asked politely for a raincheck. Thomas alone shamed them all for being yellow by saying, "Let us all go that we may die with Him." Thomas was courageous, but he was a pessimist. The bottom line was doom and gloom.

His faith told him it would be better to die with Jesus than live without Him. His unbelief told him that once Christ died, He would remain a rotting corpse like Thomas himself.

Belief and doubt have the nasty habit of co-existing uncomfortably in our selves. If that be your secret problem, lighten up. Thomas is your main man.

When Jesus appeared Easter Sunday, Thomas was absent. Perhaps he was out looking for a job or applying for unemployment insurance or getting drunk. When his fellow apostles reported they had seen the risen Lord, he assumed they were smoking funny cigarettes or drinking cheap red wine or both.

Thomas did not say he could not believe but rather that he was not able to believe without physical proof. Sorry, but you were not the first to say, "I believe only what I see." Thomas made one serious mistake. He missed the Eucharist on Easter Sunday. Learn from him and never miss any Sunday Liturgy. Jesus oftentimes sends an e-mail just for you at these occasions.

Thomas of record was the last person on the block to believe in the Resurrection. But run up all the flags, for he was the first to profess absolute belief in the divinity of the risen Saviour. The cry "My Lord and my God" that came out of his gut still shouts out. It is the most celebrated two second sound bite in history and a wonderful prayer to boot. Thomas began that second Easter Sunday by touching Jesus as friend. But, when he pulled back his hand from the wet wounds, he realized he was in touch with God Himself. Thomas was blown away by the experience. He would never be the same again.

We owe Thomas big time. His doubt is a further proof to us that the risen Christ is as physical as we are right now.

All of God's closest friends - Moses, David, Abraham, Job, Thomas, etc - had doubts. They voiced them publicly. Expressing doubts is often the next level of intimacy with God. (Rick Warren)

Easter Sunday the Master forgave the apostles for running out on Him Good Friday. Today He absolves Thomas for his disbelief. He gave them all a second chance. Do you believe the resurrected Jesus will not also give you a second chance?

Forgiveness for your sins through confession may be too much for you to receive, but it is not too much for Christ to give.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
2 Easter
Second Sunday of Easter: The Journey through Doubts to Faith

The Gospel reading for today takes all of our Easter idealism, our delight in the Risen Savior, and applies a sobering does of reality. The reading as well as recent events in our parish, country and world, lead me to write about faith, doubts and crises.

It is very, very easy to be a person of faith when all goes well. When life is without any really deep crises, when the hardest things to accept are the deaths of elderly parents and hospitalization for minor ailments like appendicitis, it is easy for each of us to be a person of faith. But when a crisis tears at our hearts, as when a young spouse dies or, worse still, a child dies, or a marriage is evidently on the rocks, then very often we feel our faith ebbing. Many times we enter into a period of anger at God and a time of doubts. This does not mean that we have lost our faith. It simply means that we are being called to a deeper faith.

It was easy for the disciples to believe in the Lord when they felt the magnetism of His words, when they witnessed His healings, when they saw His miracles. But it was much harder for them to believe after He had been taken away to be killed. It was harder for them to believe when they realized that they also could be killed for having been His followers. Thomas doubted the Resurrec­tion because he had suffered the crisis of the crucifixion. His faith in God waned. Like the other specially chosen disciples who would later be called apostles, like Peter, James, Andrew, Bartholomew, Simon and all the rest, Thomas ran and hid. He was not be found on Golgotha. He was too afraid to remember the promises of the Lord. But his faith was restored when he saw the Lord. At this point Jesus told Thomas about a greater faith, a faith that He has called you and me to. The Lord looked at Thomas and then looked down the ages at us and said, "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe."

When a crisis hits us we all pray for deliverance. "God, please keep my husband, my child alive. God, please save our marriage. God, protect my son at war." If deliverance comes we feel that we have seen the Lord. This is all well and good, but how much greater is our faith when we hold onto the Lord even when our prayers are not answered. "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe."

Last Sunday we were called to believe in the Resurrection. Our own faith in the Resurrection is not based on experiencing a presence of the Risen Lord, but on an empty tomb. When we feel empty, when we feel that the Lord is no longer in our lives, we have to recognize that more than ever He is alive, among us.

We should not feel bad about having crises in faith. We should feel very human. We should also realize that our crisis can lead us to an even stronger faith. That which challenges us often strengthens us. Let me give you an example of this from everyday life. A fourteen year old child does something very wrong, something that could have resulted in harm for himself or herself or others--like go for a joy ride in a car and then get into an accident. Once caught, the teenager has to deal with the law and whatever reparations need to be made. The teenager also has to go before his or her parents. The parents will most likely have their own punishment connected to the incident, such as, “Regardless of what the law says, you will not get your driver’s license until you are seventeen,” but good parents will still say to their teenager, "I love you despite your irresponsible behavior." When they do this they demonstrate a fuller, deeper love of their child than before their love was tested by what the child did.

On a higher plane, for us to say to the Lord, "I love you and believe in you despite the times that I have been uncertain of you in my life," demonstrates a deeper faith than we had before our faith was challenged.

A young wife dies. A young man is devastated. He argues with God, even gets angry with God. “How could you let this happen to her,” he says in his grief forgetting that God does not do bad things or cause bad things, but cries with us in our crises just as he cried with Martha and Mary when Lazarus died. In time, after the initial shock and upset, the young man recognizes that God is present in bad times as well as in good times and then chooses to believe. His faith is now based not just on his experience of the good, but also on his choice of God during crisis. The crisis, while not caused by God, led him to a deeper faith than he had previously.

Let's not persecute ourselves. Doubting is part of being human. A person who does not react with anger at the time of a tragedy might be a saint, but most likely is a person who really never had a high quality of love. The person who recognizes that God was certainly there even at the time of anger, is a person whose faith has grown.

We pray today that we might all have a mature faith, able to grow through crises. We pray today that we might all be included in that phrase of the Lord's, "Blessed are those who have not seen but believe."
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Easter
Life in Christ Week 2: Take the Plunge
(April 23, 2017)

Message: Come to God's mercy - his Word. A lamb can bathe in it without drowning and an elephant can swim in it. Take the Plunge.

On Easter Sunday I began a homily series titled Life in Christ. St. Paul tells us that if you and I have died - that is received baptism and belief in Jesus - then your life is hidden with Christ.

Life in Christ: The readings today invite us to take a plunge into that reality - to plunge into the ocean of Divine Mercy. "In his great mercy," says St. Peter, God "gave us a new birth." Come to that ocean of mercy. Make a new beginning; be born again. Jesus calls us to his mercy. "Do not be afraid." According an ancient say, "A lamb can bathe in it without drowning - and an elephant swim in it." Take the plunge into Divine Mercy.

This Sunday I offer a way of entering that mercy, that Life in Christ: a Bible study appropriately titled, "Take the Plunge!" It will give you a method for using the Bible to pray and for understanding the original meaning - the text in context. This method uses the daily Mass readings. The most convenient way to have them is by subscribing to Word Among Us. Along with that subscription I ask you to purchase Fire Starters. I first received this Fire Starters as a present from Archbishop Sartain. I have found it super helpful for its clear - but not watered down - explanations of the Bible readings used at daily Mass: the Old Testament history, prophets and wisdom; the New Testament letters and Gospel selections.

Perhaps you know that if you attend daily Mass in the course of two years you will hear almost the entire Bible - emphasizing the parts most vital for personal prayer and spiritual growth. People sometimes say they zone out because that they don't know what the readings are talking about. Fire Starters will help you understand the original meaning - the text in context.

I know that many cannot attend daily Mass because of work and other demands. The Take the Plunge course you can do at home - by yourself, with other family members or small groups. It would benefit, for example, a bright high school student.

So take the plunge into God's mercy and his Word. Learn how to use the Bible for prayer - for listening to God, learning his plan for you. I will offer three presentations beginning May 29. To participate you will need to order Word Among Us and Fire Starters. Archbishop Sartain helped me by giving me Fire Starters and many other ways. Next week we will learn how we can help Archbishop Sartain - and how our union with him relates to Life in Christ. That's for next week.

For this week I invite you to come to God's mercy - his Word. A lamb can bathe in it without drowning and an elephant can swim in it. Take the Plunge - Life in Christ. As Jesus says, "Do not be afraid." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Easter
Second Sunday of Easter, Classic
John 20: 19–31

Gospel Summary
With allusions to the Eucharistic liturgy, this passage describes the appearance of the Lord to his disciples on the day of his resurrection. The disciples experience the peace and joy of his presence as he had promised (Jn 14:27 and 16:22). Then, assuring them that he is the same Jesus whom they had known before his death, he breathes the life of the Holy Spirit into them, and sends them to bring forgiveness to a sinful world just as the Father had sent him. Thomas, one of the twelve, was not present; and upon hearing what had happened, said that he would not believe unless he could see and touch the Lord for himself.

A week later, again on Sunday, Jesus appears to the disciples, and this time shows Thomas his wounds and tells him to touch them. Thomas at once responds, "My Lord and my God." Jesus in reply gives us the beatitude that is the climax and expresses the purpose of John's gospel: "Blessed are those who have not seen and believed."

John concludes by stating that he has written about these events so that we the hearers of the gospel might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and thus have life in him.

Life Implications
We can readily identify with that early community which John is addressing in this gospel. It is now at least fifty or sixty years since Jesus died and then appeared to his disciples as Risen Lord. We, like John's community, and like Thomas, were not present in that room to experience for ourselves the reality of the resurrection. Did it make sense for that early community, and does it make sense for us now, to believe without seeing and touching the Lord? John's gospel proclaims the good news that we who were not present to see and to touch the Lord can believe in truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and have life in him.

A privileged moment for us to experience the reality of the Lord's presence is when we, like the first Christians, gather on the first day of the week to be with the Lord. We have heard the good news from those who have seen the Lord. Now we pray that we might be among the blessed who are able to experience the peace and joy of that divine presence. And in that experience it may be given to us to say from our hearts: "My Lord and God." Through the gift of faith we believe that the Risen Lord also breathes the Holy Spirit into us. We the church are sent into a sinful world to bring forgiveness, not only as priests through the sacrament of reconciliation, but as disciples who are present anywhere there is need of forgiveness. Perhaps that we are able to forgive those who trespass against us is the surest sign that our faith is not illusion, but that we truly do live in the Spirit of Christ.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Second Sunday of Easter, Modern
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Lectionary 43
Gospel John 20: 19-31

Today is a day of many names. Properly speaking the second Sunday of Easter, yet in recent years it is also commonly called Divine Mercy Sunday. Further, it has traditionally been called Low Sunday, indicating its "lower” status in comparison to the Easter Sunday itself, coming at the end of the Easter Octave. Another name for this day is Dominica in albis; this refers to the ancient practice of those who were baptized on Easter returning to mass a week later in their baptismal albs and then taking them off and joining the rest of the congregation as full members of the community. Occasionally it also used to be called Quasi modo Sunday, because of the opening words of the entrance antiphon for mass today. Finally, it is called Sunday of St. Thomas by many Eastern-Rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians, since the gospel account of "doubting Thomas” has long been read at mass and Divine Liturgy this day. Six names for one day—it must be important! What these various names should call to our minds is the fact that this day is a critical part of the commemoration of the resurrection which we celebrate at Easter, and that this entire drama has attracted such attention from Christians through the centuries precisely because they long recognized it as the center of our faith. Easter, along with the Lenten season and Passiontide which lead up to it and the long Easter season which flows from it, is the hinge upon which our salvation turns and as such the Church has developed rites and practices over the centuries that express this importance and focus on its different dimensions.

On this great day the scriptures teach us that the earliest members of the Church were intensely conscious of the spiritual presence of the risen Lord in their midst, celebrating this presence constantly: "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). By devoting themselves to "the breaking of the bread” they signaled that they understood that our Lord was as present to them in the Eucharist, although in a different way, as he had been during his earthly life.

This sense of God’s presence and in particular the presence of the risen Lord Jesus to the Church is underlined in the second reading, from the First Letter of Peter. There we hear: "Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:8-9). Here again the presence of the Lord among the faithful, though invisible, is acknowledged profoundly and indeed leads us to rejoice in the salvation it has brought us.

The presence of the risen Christ to his people is even more dramatically described in the gospel story of St. Thomas. From childhood many Catholics have been taught to quietly pray "My Lord and my God” when viewing the elevated Eucharistic Host at mass; these words are taken from today’s reading (John 20:28). They proclaim Thomas’ heartfelt belief in the risen Lord, in spite of his earlier doubt. Here St. Thomas becomes a model for all of us as we keep in mind the promise "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29), and together with the Psalmist (Ps 118:1) we say "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting”!

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Easter
Second Sunday of Easter
Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

St Thomas the Apostle has long been regarded as the patron saint of doubters. This is fitting for someone who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had actually seen Christ himself standing in front of him showing the wounds of his Crucifixion.

We can all identify with Thomas. It is hard for any of us to believe what we cannot see, despite the fact that we know from our own experience that even so reliable a sense as sight can occasionally deceive us. One has only to think of magicians who can through trickery make us believe that the impossible has happened before our very eyes.

Our tendency is always to want to rely on what we can see and touch and experience directly. Society at large tells us that faith is something completely unreliable and not to be trusted before hard and tangible evidence.

So, Thomas is very human; he is very like us, he wants to believe but he prefers to rely on evidence. Lucky enough for him he got the evidence, Christ actually did stand before him with his hands outstretched showing his wounds.

None of us, however, get the opportunity to meet the risen Christ in the flesh. We have to rely on those who saw the Risen Lord two thousand years ago and who have handed down their words through the generations into our own day. Our belief in Christ is solely based on their testimony.

This question of belief is drawn to our attention in the scripture readings quite appropriately on this Sunday right after Easter because it is belief in the reality of the resurrection that concerns us most of all. The existence of Christ in the world is not an issue; not many people question the fact of his birth. People don't base their faith on his miracles either or even on the content of his teaching.

The key question of faith is whether Christ rose from the dead or not. It is belief in the reality of his resurrection on which our faith is based. Without the resurrection, Christ would essentially be a nobody; a first Century wonderworker who subsequent generations would rightly regard as irrelevant.

The question then arises as to why we believe. Of course, it is in large part because we were taught to by our parents. As we grew up they told us about Jesus and taught us to pray and develop a relationship with God in our hearts. This was reinforced by priests and teachers and catechists. We became accustomed to believing in God, in Jesus, in the saints and in the sacraments. Over a period of time we came to see our faith as a logical and coherent thing, something which made sense of the world and therefore a thing to be greatly cherished.

Most of us will have played our own part in this process and have ourselves been involved in handing on the faith to the next generation. We may have done this by being a parent ourselves or by our role as a Godparent or Sponsor or a member of the wider family.

But if we think about our own journey of faith we will certainly acknowledge the role that others had in handing it on to us; but we will also realise that there was a point in life when we made a decision of our own. There surely was a tipping point when we decided to wholeheartedly accept this faith that was handed on to us.

We will know of people too who when they came to this point decided to reject their faith. But since we are gathered in the Church today we know that this is because when we arrived at that point of maturity we chose to accept our faith in Christ and his Church.

It is for this reason that here in the UK the Church has decided to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation at the age of fourteen. We reckon that this is the sort of age when we tend to make such decisions about our faith. For this reason we also stress that those who wish to get Confirmed should make the decision to do so themselves and not be under pressure from parents or others.

In our parish we give the candidates a programme of catechesis that reflects the fact that they are at this decision point and our curriculum provides them with the knowledge that they need to make a good and conscientious decision. While much that goes into making a decision about our faith is based on our upbringing and what we have been told about Jesus by others, we should not think that our decision to believe is any different from that of St Thomas. We know that he was confronted with the actual person of the Risen Lord. But if our upbringing has been a good one and if we were taught to develop our own personal relationship with the Lord when we were children, then we too will be able to profess our faith in a real person.

We will know the Lord in a personal way through our own prayer and through our reception of the sacraments. We will be in relationship with him and we will experience his presence in our lives. This will actually be what enables us to publicly pronounce our belief in him when it comes to the time to be Confirmed.

Another question that comes to mind when we are thinking about St Thomas is that of those who are afflicted by doubts. Quite a lot of people find that after many years of being firm in their faith they suddenly start to experience doubts. This is a serious affliction and can cause a lot of grief for a person.

In my experience people who suffer from this affliction really do want to believe but find that they can't any more. And the harder they try to believe the more difficult it gets. I tend to think that this is an affliction caused by the Evil One who is trying to drive them away from faith in God. It is not that they don't believe, but that so many doubts have crept in that they don't know what to think any more.

In cases like this I tend to counsel people not to try so hard. I suggest that since we belong to a community of faith in which some are stronger than others it might be good to let some of the other members of the Church take the strain as it were. Allowing yourself to be upheld by the faith of others at such a time of difficulty may in fact be the best way forward.

Saying a prayer along these lines might help: 'Lord, I am assailed by doubts, I want to believe in you but I find it difficult right now. Please accept on my behalf the faith of my brothers and sisters in the Church and continue to sustain me with your love so that I might return to true faith in you.'

At times like this the support of St Thomas the Apostle can be of great help. He is the very best patron for those who doubt and are suffering from lack of faith. So, let me suggest that if you are experiencing this sort of thing to turn to him and ask his intercession so that you can once again say together with him those immortal words: 'My Lord and my God.' Amen.
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