19 April 20202 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: When Doubts Come....

The Sunday after Easter always presents the Gospel of Doubting Thomas.  The reasoning is that the events in today's gospel take place one week after the Lord rose from the dead.  A deeper reason, though, is that our belief in the Resurrection is based on our faith.  We have faith that Jesus fulfilled the Scriptural prophecies that the Suffering Servant would be raised up.  We have faith that He fulfilled his own prophecies that he would suffer, die and on the third day rise up.  We have faith in those who witnessed His resurrection and testified to it: Peter and the other ten, Mary Magdalene and the women who had been at the tomb and many other disciples like those on the road to Emmaus, who proclaimed that they had seen the Lord.  In 1 Corinthian 15 St. Paul writes that one time Jesus appeared to over 500 disciples.

However, faith is always going to be met with doubts.  This is part of the human condition.  Everyone suffers times, often just fleeting moments, when he or she has  doubts about the existence of God, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, the Eucharist or other  teachings of the Church.  Here is something you might find shocking: even the Pope has doubts.  He has doubts because he is a human being.  We will not be free from all doubts until we see God face to face in eternity. I love the story of the man with whose son was suffering from some form of what we would call epilepsy.  You find this in The Gospel of Mark 9:15-29. Jesus came upon quite a scene, a lot of noise and yelling.  People all gathered, seeming to be upset over something or other.  So Jesus asked, "What's going on.  A man who was there said, "Sir, my son suffers from a spirit that seizes him, throws him down, causes him to foam from the mouth and roll around."  Jesus asked, "How long has this been happening?" "Since childhood," the man responded.  Then he added, "Sometimes he is thrown into the water or into a fire."  Then the man said, "Sir if you can do anything, please help him." Jesus replied, "If I can.  Everything is possible for someone who has faith. Then the boy's father shouted out, "I do believe, Lord.  Help those parts of me that don't believe." With that the Lord healed the boy.  "Help those parts of me that don't believe."  That is our prayer too when we realize how little our faith is at times. 

We have many challenges to our faith.  One challenge is the thought that somehow our minds can come to a knowledge beyond their capabilities.  We start to consider a mystery of faith such as the Trinity, or the Divinity and Humanity of Christ, or why Christ died for us. In a world where we can always go to Google for an answer to our questions, we find it difficult to realize that some answers can only be provided by God.  We find it hard to realize that our minds can be limited.

It takes a tremendous amount of humility to have faith.  Having faith demands that we recognize that we do not have all the answers to the questions of life.  Some answers can only be given to us through faith.  If we are too proud to believe, then we limit ourselves to that which we can comprehend with our finite minds.

There is a wonderful story about the great Catholic intellectual, theologian and philosopher, St. Augustine.  Augustine was walking on the beach in North Africa trying to come to an understanding of the Trinity, one God in three persons but only one God. So Augustine was walking along when he came upon a little boy doing what children have been doing at the beach for ages.  The child had dug a hole in the sand and had a little bucket.  He would run down to the water and fill his bucket with water, then run back and dump the water into the hole.  He kept doing this over and over.  Meanwhile St. Augustine was considering the Trinity, "How can there be one God, but the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God."  Finally, Augustine noticed the little boy, and said to him, "Hey, little boy.  What do you think you are doing?"  The little boy said, "I'm emptying all the water in the ocean into this hole."  Augustine laughed and said, "You can't do that."  The child responded, "It is easier for me to empty all the water in the world into this hole than it is for you to fill your mind with an understanding of the mysteries of God." Rotten kid. He was probably an angel or something.

When people say to us, "How can you explain this?" the answer we should give is, "This is a mystery given to us by God which is beyond our mind's capability."  To deny that there could be something out there, anything, greater than our understanding, is to deny ourselves the things the Lord wishes to reveal to us through faith.

When I was a Teen and beyond, I often got into periods of doubt about this that or the other thing.  Finally, somewhere in high school I remember saying to myself, "Self, (I'm on a first name basis with myself) Self, what the Church teaches, believe. Make life simple and stop trying to figure everything out."

Another area of doubt comes not through intellectual reasons, but through physical challenges.  A person becomes seriously ill.   The doctor tells him or her that this might last for months, or years, or be a condition that might last a lifetime.  A loved one dies. A young person dies.  It is quite normal for us to ask, "Where were you God when I, when we, were going through this?"  God's answer is that He is with us holding us up, helping us get through and even grow stronger in our faith when it is challenged.  Many times people will get through a crisis and then feel horrible that they doubted God, or even His existence.  God sees the pain the person is suffering.  He is crying with us, just as Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus.  He tells us to use our challenges to draw closer to Him.  We can, and we do.

Another time doubt enters into our lives is when someone is attacking us for our faith.  Usually they are anti-Catholic bigots, although they would never consider themselves by that name.  But people will routinely come up to us and say things like, "You Catholics don't read the Bible." or "You worship Mary" or some other absurdity we all know is false.  After a while that wears down on us.  Peer pressure takes over and we start thinking that there is something wrong with us if we are not seeing things like everybody else.  That is when we really need to shore up our faith and say to others and even to ourselves, "I respect the beliefs of others and simply ask them to respect my belief."

Sometimes people whom we respect subtly attack our faith by treating us as though we were simple minded.  We may have a coach whom we really respect, or a professor whose classes we love, or someone whose intelligence we admire tell us that to him or her faith is for little children.  Remember that some of the most brilliant people in the world, some of the greatest coaches also, are people of faith.  Think about Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke basketball team.  He is an ardent and active Catholic.  In science, you may have studied about the brilliant physicist and noble prizewinner, Marie Curie.  She won two noble prizes in physics.  She was also a determined woman of faith. My point is that intellectual brilliance has nothing to do with faith.  Many extremely intelligent people are people of faith.  Some brilliant people might be too proud to have faith.

The most common way that doubts enter into our lives is when we start departing from living a Christian life.  Sometimes people in high school or in college get involved with drugs and choose substance abuse, or get involved with another person, start having sex, and then they think that maybe their faith is wrong.  We cannot separate our faith from our actions.  Listen to this carefully: If we stop behaving like a Christian we will soon stop believing like a Christian.  Oh, we might say we still believe, but in reality we are just giving lip service to our faith.  Many times people just say that they stopped believing; when actually what they stopped doing was living the Christian life.

Jesus looked at Thomas and said, "Do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas then said, "My Lord and My God."  Then Jesus said something extremely important for us all to remember, he said, "You believe because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen and believe."

Jesus was talking about us.  He was considering all of us gathered right here and throughout the world, throughout history, and saying "Bless you, my friends for believing."  Think of it, the Lord sees us in a greater light than his disciples.  They saw and believed.  We have not seen, but we do believe.

So when doubts come, whether due to others or circumstances, or due to things welling up inside us, we need to say, "Lord, I do believe.  Help those parts of me that don't believe."  We need to trust that the Lord who promised to give us all good things, will give us faith.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Easter
Let Go of Your Anger
(April 19, 2020)

I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis

Bottom line: Forgiveness is the vital step to faith. Examining the evidence and asking God's grace, we want to be like Thomas: to say to Jesus, "My Lord and my God."

On Easter Sunday I addressed a word to those who doubt Jesus' resurrection. I understand the doubt. We are, after all, making a huge claim. It's not just about the truth of an historical event - that a man the Romans cruelly put to death rose bodily from the grave. No, we are saying much more. Jesus' resurrection is not only true, it is the truth about everything. Because of the resurrection Jesus is the center of human history, the center of the universe and, whether we know it or not, the resurrection means that Jesus is the central person in your life and mine.

If you doubt Jesus' resurrection, you do have good company. We hear today that the Apostle Thomas doubted. He wanted to see the evidence. That's a good, scientific mindset. We should want to examine the evidence. I mentioned last Sunday that the Church sets aside 50 days to explore the evidence. From Easter until Pentecost, May 31, we hear biblical readings about different aspects of Jesus' resurrection. And I mentioned a helpful book: The Case for Jesus by Dr. Brant Pitre - the biblical and historical evidence for Christ.

I am personally convinced there is strong case for Christ. Thomas of course received powerful proof - an appearance of Jesus and the offer to touch the wounds. Even so, it did require an act of faith.

That's my main point today: We need evidence, but we need something more - divine grace. Let me explain.

As we see in today's Gospel the prerequisite for faith is forgiveness. That's why the first thing Jesus says to the disciples is "Peace be with you." Then he breathes the Holy Spirit on them and says, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..." This refers to the power Jesus gave the Apostles and their successors to absolve sins in his name.

It also indicates our need for forgiveness. We see this during our pandemic. I'll speak from the point of view of those ordered to shelter in place. For some it was an opportunity to deepen family bonds, for others not so much. Some used this time for intellectual and spiritual growth. At the same time liquor and marijuana have had huge sales. And traffic for porn sites has soared.

I'll let each person examine his conscience on how he is using his time. But there's one area we all need to look at: what we see in Thomas - his reaction of anger. Instead of saying, "wow, tell me more", he says "Unless I see...I will not believe." All of us can understand his resentment when the others told about Jesus' appearance and he was left out.

Now, anger is a natural emotion and it has a good purpose: to motivate us to do something about an injustice. That's good, but anger can quickly become misdirected. St. Paul says, "Don't let the sun go down and your anger." (Eph. 4:26)

Anger can fester and destroy a person. Anger often harms the people closest to us. I've heard people express anger at Trump, the news media or even the bishops. I've experienced some of that anger myself.

I remember once expressing frustration to Archbishop Brunett (may he rest in peace). Rather than argue with me, the archbishop said, "Phil, you have to focus on what's right in front of you." You know, I can't solve the problems of the world and the church. I can, however, make a difference that will matter to someone. When you think about it, the whole purpose of politics is to make possible small acts - like being a parent or a pastor. Again, St. Paul "pray for...all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." The emperors, such as Nero, had enormous power. To this day you can read books about the emperors. Still it's St. Paul who tells us the important things going in the Empire - things that really last.

You and I can become angry because others treat us as insignificant, "non-essential" as our rulers say. Still, even though you and I are little people we are significant and essential.

What I'm saying is use your anger, but then let it go. You have important, essential things to do. Ask God forgiveness for your failures and make a new beginning. Then forgive the failures of others. Today we celebrate Divine Mercy - a perfect moment to open yourself to mercy and to show mercy to others. Forgiveness is the vital step to faith. Examining the evidence and asking God's grace, we want to be like Thomas: to say to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." And kneeling before the Eucharist we will say "my Lord and my God." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Easter

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 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 where 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. 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 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.
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