Easter 2A - Thomas

1. Fr. Jude Botelho:


The first reading describes to us the early Christian community. One of the signs of the Risen Lord was the vibrant Christian community that existed. Anyone who came across that community of believers would be struck by the fact that they were united in mind, body and spirit. “See how they love one another." The Spirit of the Risen Lord created community. “They shared all that they had and no one was in need." We can be counted as a Christian community when we are united with each other, when we care deeply for one another and when we reach out to meet the needs of one another. Do we care enough to share?
Cosmic Union and Christic Communion
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi narrates how, as a student in South Africa, he read the Bible and was fascinated by the person of Christ. He believed that Christianity was the best antidote for the caste system in India, and even considered converting to Christianity. However, on one of visits to a church he was shown the door and told he could only attend Mass in a church reserved for blacks. He left, never to return. Even though Christianity preaches love and equality, we have built churches dividing whites and blacks in South Africa and so called ‘high’ and ‘low castes’ in India. But, is there any ‘model church’ we can emulate in designing Christian communities for our times? The first line of the first reading tells us: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for one’s own use anything that one had, as everything they owned was held in common.” We are called to be witnesses to communion.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
The post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ starts with the fact that the disciples are huddled behind closed doors fearful of what might happen to them, now that their master has gone. The have closed the doors and yet Jesus comes through the barrier they have created and stands in their midst. “Peace be to you!" Is his first greeting.  No matter what we have done, He comes to bring us peace. He comes to fill us with his Spirit, the Spirit of new hope, the Spirit of joy. The second focus of the Gospel is on Thomas, one of the twelve, who was not present when the Lord appeared to the rest and who begins to question and doubt the Risen Lord's presence. He goes further than that, he demands proof. Many of us could easily identify with Thomas the doubter. We miss out on the gifts that the Lord freely gives. Our faith is shaken and we demand proofs. The Lord giving in to the demands of doubting Thomas comes to him on his terms. “Here I am Thomas! Put your finger into the holes the nails have made. Put your hand into the wound in my side!  Doubt no longer but believe."  Thomas's response is an act of faith: “My Lord and my God!"  Jesus' response to Thomas is one that is relevant to all of us who have doubts from time to time. “Thomas, you believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!" There will be times in our lives, when we will demand proof from God, when we will ask for signs from Him, when we want to feel his presence when we feel forsaken. It is at these times that we are called to believe though we don't see, though we don't feel His loving presence. “Doubt No longer but believe!"

Doubting Thomasses
The doubting Thomas saga is often glibly used to dismiss even the most reasonable reservations about a project. Of course, it is frequently invoked by people who have long forgotten its gospel origin. Thomas is in the not uncommon situation of being remembered for his limitations rather than for his finer qualities. He was the courageous one who suggested that all the disciples should go and die with the Lord in Jerusalem when danger threatened the Master. He was honest and open in saying that he did not understand a word when Jesus was talking about being the way to the Father. But it is for his unwillingness to believe in the resurrection of Jesus that he has gone down in history. Yet, his hesitancy was understandable. The others believed because they had been in the presence of the risen Lord. Without this personal experience they would not have been convinced. Despite his doubting, once he dramatically accepted the fact that Jesus was risen, Thomas committed his whole life to believing in the Lord and to sharing this treasure with the world. Our times need many Thomases!
Tom Clancy in ‘Living the Word’
Nurture new life
In 1910 a young explorer was travelling in the French Alps when he came upon a wasteland, a barren stretch of land desolate and abandoned. He had travelled about five miles into this God-forsaken territory when in the distance he saw what looked like the stump of a tree. On approaching, he discovered the stooped figure of a little old man with a sack of acorns on his back and an iron staff in his hand. With the staff he made a hole in the ground, dropped in an acorn and filled the hole. He was planting oak trees. He told the explorer that he had planted 100,000 in the past three years. “If I get one in ten, I’ll be happy,” he said, adding that his wife and only son had died and that as long as the Lord spared him he would carry on planting trees to bring back life to a land that was dying. Fifty years later the explorer returned to a sight wondrous to behold. The acorns of 1910 had become an oak forest, eleven kilometres long by three kilometres wide. There were beech trees along the slopes as far as the eyes could see. Birds were singing in the trees, wildlife frolicked in the shade and streams flowed with water in groves that has been bone dry. At the entrance to the forest was a linden tree, the symbol of re-birth. And as he gazed in wonder he thought of the old unlettered peasant who had worked alone in utter solitude to turn a desert into the land of Canaan and had completed a task worthy of God. We may not be able to change the world but we can do something about the little patch where we live. The sack of acorns and the iron staff are in our hands.
James Feeban in ‘Story Power’
Happy are those who have not seen, yet believe.
“I remember one occasion when I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young men in the group was quite mentally limited, although his grasp of God, of Jesus, and the events of the gospel was uncanny. We arrived at the tomb of the basilica, and we joined the long line, waiting our turn to enter. One lady came out of the tomb, and was obviously deeply touched by the experience of her visit to such a sacred spot. She sat down outside the entrance, took out a tissue, and began wiping her tears. My friend, who was back in the line, spotted what was happening, and responded instantly. He ran straight up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Don’t be crying, It’s Ok. He’s alive; don’t you know that?” The whole thing was so spontaneous and genuine that the woman stood up, and gave him a warm hug. The simple fact was that he could not understand how anybody could be crying at this tomb, of all the tombs in the world. -Jesus thanked the father for giving a message that was so simple and straightforward that the intellectual and the worldly-wise would fail to grasp it, and yet it could be fully accepted by someone with the mind of a child. Happy are they who have not seen yet believe…”
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel Truth!’
Showing them his wounds
His Holiness Pope John Pail II passed away on 2nd April 2005. He shepherded the Catholic Church for nearly twenty-seven years. He cheated death many times. At the beginning of his pontificate, an attempt of assassination was made on him (1981). He had colon cancer in 1992; he suffered shoulder and hip injuries in 1992 and 1993; he had his appendix removed in 1996, and in 2001 it was confirmed that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Towards the end of his life, he was visibly in pain, but he united it with the sufferings of Christ, and bore with it with extraordinary serenity.  One day, while he was giving a press conference, one reporter asked him, “Holy Father, kindly excuse me for being bold. You are aged, your hands are shaking due to Parkinson’s disease, your voice is feeble and inaudible, and you find it difficult to walk. You are suffering a lot and you are incapacitated in your work. Why don’t you resign and take rest, and make way for the others to take over?  The Holy Father said, “If Jesus had come down from the cross, I, too, would have resigned. Since, He remained on the cross and suffered, I too, am holding on to my responsibility, and am suffering.”  The suffering, which the Pope was undergoing, was because he loved Christ and the people whom Christ had entrusted to him. The Holy Father’s sufferings were the tokens of his love.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’
Resurrection and economics….
The Christian faith has profound economic implications. Any preaching of the Good News that shuns this reality denies the Gospel and Jesus’ teaching. In Acts we see that one of the strong witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection is the way his disciples order their economic lives. Resurrection and economics have spiritual connections to how the Church lives out its mission and are key to the Church’s involvement in peace and justice ministry. Acts 4 is about resurrection power in our living and our economics. Resurrection in Acts is not so much a doctrine to be believed as a power to be experienced. Trying to prove the historicity of the resurrection may distract us from discovering this power in our lives as we engage the powers of domination today. The early Church community lived out this resurrection power in the way they arranged their lives, their relationships to one another, and their economics. The Church today needs to experience this kind of resurrection power if we are going to be an effective presence in a world torn apart by violence, poverty, greed, and fear. One of the first important signs of resurrection power in the early Church was the strong sense of community.
Larry Hollar in ‘Hunger for the Word’

2.     Andrew Greeley:  

Once upon a time there was a man who counted carefully all his grudges. He remembered all the cruelties of the school yard, the taunts from his class when he did something well, the feather-brained irresponsibilities  (as he saw them) of the young women he had dated, the dishonesty of his business associates, the insensitivity of his wife, the ingratitude of his children. So many people had done such terrible things to him that he figured that there had to be a conspiracy. Who could have organized such a massive conspiracy?

Only God:

For some reason, maybe it was his face, God did not like him. This was unfair, but what could he do. If God had a grudge against him, that was God’s privilege. But then he had the right to hold a grudge against God. So he died lonely and isolated, hated (he thought) by everyone who ought to have loved him. I have a grudge against You, he told God on first meeting. So what, God replied. I don’t have a grudge against you, so forget about it!  

Then God showed him the people at his funeral Mass. All the people who had injured him were sobbing in church. Do you think maybe you missed the point, God asked.


Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet -- which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! -- declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.)   

Today in the Word, October 8, 1992.  

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. 

"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." 

"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. 
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." 
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son. 

Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.   

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word "betray" but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word "faith," but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase "Sons of Thunder," but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: "Doubting Thomas."

You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John's Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description. 

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, "My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.

Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem...
The British writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three "laws" of prediction that are known as "Clarke's Three Laws." Here they are: 

Law 1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.  

Law 2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.  

Law 3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.    

Taking Clarke even further, some historians of science have argued that the roots of science in the mists of time lie in magic, that science began as magic. According to these scholars the astrologers and magicians parted company: those who sided with the astrologers accepted fate and the destiny of the stars; those who cast lots with the magicians looked for ways to change our future and manipulate the world.   

For people of my generation, we are living in a magic renaissance. Science and technology are awash in magic with things like 3-D printers, which are now printing human organs and 3500 square foot homes in 24 hours. Have you seen how they work? That's magic. Then there are Google glasses and Amazon drones. That's magic.   

But some of the biggest magic around is voice recognition. As a young Samuel was instructed to speak by his mentor Eli, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Our technology now is saying to us, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears and obeys." We "speak," and our toys turn on and do our bidding. Your voice is enough to get the GPS systems in your car to be your digital concierge and report back to you with a voice of our choosing. X-Box One recognizes who is speaking to it and obeys the voice of its "master" instantly. It's all magic. But to our kids, it's not magic, it's normality.     

But Voice Recognition didn't begin as magic, or as science. It began with Jesus....
 We Know Where We Are Going 

The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers' tickets, Einstein couldn't find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; "Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I'm sure you bought a ticket."  

As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. You don't need a ticket, I'm sure you bought one." Einstein arose and said "Young man, I too know who I am; what I don't know is where I am going." 

And that is the good news of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal. And Low Sundays don't change that promise. And unemployment doesn't change that promise. Neither does divorce, or bankruptcy, or cancer, or depression, or felony, or failure. Through elation and deflation and every emotion in between, this truth remains; we know whose we are and we know where we are going, because the Son of God has promised. And this, my friends, is faith.  

Steven Molin, Elated....Deflated
 A New Shalom 

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, his greeting was, "Peace be unto you." The Hebrew word shalom, for "peace," is a most comprehensive word, covering the full realm of relationships in daily life and expressing an ideal state of life. The word suggests the fullness of well-being and harmony untouched by ill fortune. The word as a blessing is a prayer for the best that God can give to enable a person to complete one's life with happiness and a natural death. If the concept of shalom became all too casual and light-hearted with no more significance than a passing greeting, Jesus came to give it new meaning. At Bethlehem God announced that peace would come through the gift of God's unique Son. The mission and ministry of our Lord made it quite clear that Jesus had come to introduce the rule of God and to order peace for the world.  

Harry N. Huxhold, Which Way To Jesus?, CSS Publishing
Is your preaching EPIC?

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 The Greatest Scar Story 

I can think of no better modern-day illustration of the sacrifice Jesus made for us than a recent scar story I heard from a tennis friend of mine. As we were waiting for another match to finish, she was relating how badly her knees hurt. This friend is the most fit 30-something-year-old I know. Yet she sat beside me with a brace on each knee. I pointed to the open hole of her knee brace and asked if her scar was from knee surgery. She told me, "No, it's from my son, and I actually have an identical scar on my other knee." 

You see, several years ago she scooped up her toddler son from the swimming pool and began to walk towards a lounge chair. As she stepped onto the tiled patio, her foot slipped on the wet slick surface. She was also seven months pregnant, and it was one of those moments where you feel like you're moving in slow motion but there's nothing you can do to stop the fall. Within a split second, she knew her momentum was toppling her forward, and she could either face-plant and land on top of both her son and her unborn child, or she could fall on her knees.  

Of course, as any loving parent would do, she chose to fall on her knees directly onto the unforgiving concrete. Her knees immediately burst open and blood went everywhere. She ended up needing stitches, which resulted in scars, but her son and unborn child were both unscathed. It is hard for me to tell this story without tearing up, because to me, it serves as a miniscule example of the immense sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ for us. You see, we are the beloved children of God for whom Jesus took the fall. Christ suffered on the cross and endured unimaginable pain for us. His is the greatest scar story ever told.  

Christi O. Brown, Scars of Hope
 Would You Still Like to be Rescued?

 Several years ago, The Saturday Evening Post ran a cartoon showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The sailor in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. "Compliments of the Captain," the sailor said. "He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you'd still like to be rescued!" Sometimes the headlines do scare us. Sometimes we feel that evil is winning. Then Easter comes to remind us that there is no grave deep enough, no seal imposing enough, no stone heavy enough, no evil strong enough to keep Christ in the grave.   

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, p. 80
 Honey...It's Me 

Perhaps you've heard the story of the Yugoslavian judge who was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. No, I'm not cruel or weird, let me tell you the rest of the story. This guy's poor wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and was placed in a preparation room under a crypt in the town cemetery for twenty-four hours before burial.  

Well, and this is the part I love, in the middle of the night, the judge came to. The judge looked around at his surroundings and suddenly realized where he was. He got pretty excited and rushed over to alert the guard. But instead of being any help, the guard was terrified and promptly ran off.  

Fortunately, though, the guard returned with a friend, and they released the newly-revived judge. The judge's first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her that he really wasn't dead. Unfortunately, he got no farther than, "Honey... it's me," when his wife screamed and fainted.  

So, he decided that the best course of action was to enlist some friends. He went to the houses of several friends; but because they all had heard the news from his distraught wife, they all doubted that he was really alive. They were all convinced he was a ghost. 

Finally, in a last desperate effort, he contacted a friend in another city who hadn't heard about his death. And that person was able to convince his family and friends that the judge really was alive.  

That story almost sounds like one of the Gospel writers could have written it, doesn't it? It sure sounds like the passage from John this morning.  

Traditional Story. We have not been able to verify the veracity of this story.
 God's Back 

It was Saturday, the day before Easter, and Joanne Hinch of Woodland Hills, California was sitting at the kitchen table coloring eggs with her three-year-old son Dan and her two-year-old daughter Debbie. She told her kids about the meaning of Easter and taught them the traditional Easter morning greeting and response, "He is risen...He is risen indeed!" The children planned to surprise their Dad, a Presbyterian minister, with that greeting as soon as he awoke the next morning. Easter arrived, little Dan heard his father stirring about in his bedroom, so the boy got up quickly, dashed down the hall and shouted the good news: "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, God's back!"  

David E. Leininger, "Laugh, Thomas, Laugh!"
 Ants in The Pants of Faith 

Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.  

Frederick Buechner
 End In Certainties

If a man will begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. 

Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning (1605)1.v.8. (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), 41.
 Just Because We Can't See It 

A junior high school teacher was telling her class about evolution and how the way everything in the world was formed proved that God doesn't exist. She said, "Look out the window. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Look around you in this room. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Then our logical conclusion is that God doesn't exist, does He?" she asked at last, certain that she had won her audience over. 

But one girl from the back of the classroom said, "Miss Smith, just because we can't see it does not mean it does not exist...