AD SENSE

Easter 2 Sunday - Divine Mercy - Thomas & Nail Marks

From Fr. Jude Botelho:


The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles has an apt description of the ideal Christian community, a community gathered around the risen Lord. There are two characteristics pointed out in this community. Firstly, there was a tremendous unity and secondly, as a result of this unity there was a generous sharing of all that they had, out of concern for others. It is good to remind ourselves today that if we are truly Christians, then our communities should have the same characteristics.Today we are reminded that if we are an Easter people we have to share our lives and in the measure we care, in that measure we grow as a Christian community. 

Uplifting One Another
Have you ever watched geese fly in V-formation? While a thing of beauty to watch, the formation is essential to the geese for survival. If you listen, you can hear the beat of their wings whistling through the air in unison. And that is the secret of their strength: the lead goose cuts a swath through the air resistance, which creates a helping uplift for the birds behind it. In turn their flapping makes it easier for the birds behind them, and so on. Each bird takes its turn at being leader. The tired ones fan out to the edges of the V for a breather, and the rested ones surge towards the point of the V to drive the flock onward. If a goose becomes too exhausted or ill and has to drop out of the flock, it is never abandoned. A stronger member of the flock will follow the failing, weak one to its resting place and wait till the bird is well enough to fly again. Together, cooperating as a flock, geese can fly at 71% longer range, with up to 60% less work.

Phillip Yancy, in 'Benedict Arnold Seagull'



In the Gospel, Easter Peace is very much linked with our readiness to forgive and to receive forgiveness from others. We are all called to be witnesses of His Peace and His forgiveness. The Gospel adds a little detail that Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord he refused to believe. He demanded proof that would satisfy him. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." We have people who are believers and people who are doubters; people who are ready to accept the word of others as gospel truth and people who question even those in authority. Apparently, the apostles let Thomas be part of the group in spite of his doubts and questions. Equally, it must be said, that in spite of not believing their testimonies, Thomas did not walk out on them, but rather, stayed with the community. His perseverance was rewarded with the second appearance of Jesus to him. Jesus on his part is seen to be patient and tolerant of Thomas and takes the initiative to meet him on his terms and conditions. "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Doubt no longer but believe." The gospel concludes with those reassuring words for many of us, who have our doubts, who have not seen and are struggling to believe. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Don't be crying! It's Ok! He is alive!

"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 were 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'



Cure for Sorrow
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?" Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me." They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.

Brian Cavanaugh in 'The Sower's Seeds'


Identity Issue

The conversation at a party turned to religion. Many gave their opinion on a whole series of contemporary issues. One person kept silent. Then one of the guests asked him: "By the way, what are you?" In the context it was clear that he was asked what religion he was affiliated with. He said: "Oh, I happen to be a Christian!" You could tell by the way he said it that either he didn't take his religious convictions seriously, or he didn't want to admit it if he did. How different from those Christians from the Acts! They had no difficulty in describing or defining themselves; they had no identity problems. They would say things like: "We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who listen." They didn't just 'happen to be' Christians. They were Christians by conscious choice and commitment. They had opened their hearts and minds to the presence of the spirit of Jesus. They not only witnessed to Jesus by professing what had happened to him; they witnessed to Jesus by living as he lived.

Joseph G. Donders in 'With hearts on Fire'


Hope for the Flowers

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could. So the man decided to help, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!

Anonymous


Is God Alive?

In a philosophy class being taught by a great Master of Philosophy, the issue being discussed was "The Existence of God-Myth or Reality". The professor was very verbose about the folly of the whole idea of "God". While he was thus going on, one of the boys in the class was eating an orange right under the professor's nose while taking in all that the professor was saying. At the end of the discussion, the professor, with a very gleeful look of great satisfaction, asked his students whether anyone had anything to add to what he had said. Very promptly this student, who had just finished licking the final bit of juice off his fingers, popped up and asked the professor: "Sir, wasn't that orange simply scrumptious!". The professor turned all the colours of the rainbow. He was furious and yelled at the student: "How do I know you imbecile, you ate the orange not me. How can I tell the taste of something I did not eat?!!" The whole class laughed- but the student quite undeterred spoke up and said: "Exactly my point sir, how then can you speak of God whom you have never known or experienced, when I have known Him and experienced Him and I can tell you that He is, beyond a shadow of doubt".

Anonymous


God cannot be separated from our lives

About two centuries ago, some atheistic scientists in France set out to prove that, if an individual was never told about God, he would never think of the existence of God. And so they devised a strange plan. They made an agreement with the parents of a newborn infant to remove the entire family to a remote region where they could enjoy the very best by way of nutrition and recreation. The little boy was educated by the best of tutors, who were however strictly instructed never to make a mention of God. When the little boy was seven, his nurse found him missing one morning. In a state of alarm, she searched for him until she found him on a little hillock, facing the rising sun. He was on his knees, his hands were reverently joined, his head respectfully bowed and his eyes were closed as though he was lost in prayer. "What on earth are you doing?" demanded the anguished nurse. Without batting an eyelid, the little fellow said: "I am only praising the almighty Person who made that beautiful sunrise!" And there ended the sinister plan of those atheistic scientists and their presumptive objective.

James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and they are life.




MERCY

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.   

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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...
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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....
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 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
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Is your preaching EPIC?

GIVING BLOOD by Leonard Sweet - a must-have manual for preachers. Get your copy today!  
http://www.zondervan.com/giving-blood.html
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 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
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 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
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 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...

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 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
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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
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 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.
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 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!"
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 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.