SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Refrain: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.
1) Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever".
Let the house of Aaron say, "His mercy endures forever".
Let those who fear the Lord say, "His mercy endures forever".
Refrain: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.
2) I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me.
My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just.
Refrain: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.
3) The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.
Refrain: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
- I recently saw a cartoon that pictured three of the disciples talking together. The first one, obviously Thomas, says to the others “All I’m saying is that we don’t call Peter ‘denying Peter’ do we? And we don’t call Mark ‘runaway naked Mark’ do we? So why should I be saddled with this title?”
One of the others responds “I understand your point, Thomas, but really, isn’t it time to move on?”
In some churches, today is referred to as “Holy Humor” Sunday because a great joke has been played on the devil. He thought he had killed off Jesus on Good Friday but our Lord overcame death on Easter morning when he rose from the dead. I know that isn’t the greatest joke I’ve ever used in a homily but I think you get the point. Thomas will forever be known as “doubting” Thomas despite his protestations to the contrary in this cartoon.
I think all of us can identify with Thomas, however. Who of us hasn’t doubted our faith, or what is written in the Scriptures, from time to time? And we will never know for sure, not in this life anyway.
I’m sure by now many of you have seen a TV ad for the recently released movie Heaven Is for Real. Back when we lost our power due to Hurricane Sandy and I was bemoaning the loss of my computer for a few days, my wife handed me the book and suggested that I read it. She knew that I enjoyed stories about near-death experiences and she was right. With the aid of some flashlights, I read it in two nights. In case you’re not familiar with the book or the movie, it is the story of a three-year-old boy who goes into the hospital for an infection which turns out to be a burst appendix. It had not been diagnosed for several days and the poisons had been spreading in his body for so long that his prognosis was not good. But almost miraculously, he recovered. Then over the next few months, he reveals to his parents that he had died and gone to heaven where the angels had sung to him and he had sat on Jesus’ lap. The story picks up with this exchange between father and son. The father, who is a minister, writes:
- Slowly, I began to wrap my mind around the possibility that this was real. Had our son died and come back? The medical staff never gave any indication of that. But clearly, something had happened to Colton. He had authenticated that by telling us things he couldn't have known. It dawned on me that maybe we'd been given a gift and that our job now was to unwrap it, slowly, carefully, and see what was inside.
Colton was still on his knees, bombing aliens. I sat down beside him.
"Hey, Colton, can I ask you something else about Jesus?"
He nodded but didn't look up from his devastating attack on a little pile of X-Men.
"What did Jesus look like?" I said.
Abruptly, Colton put down his toys and looked up at me. "Jesus has markers."
"Markers, Daddy . . . Jesus has markers. And he has brown hair and he has hair on his face," he said, running his tiny palm around on his chin. I guessed that he didn't yet know the word beard. "And his eyes . . . oh, Dad, his eyes are so pretty!"
As he said this, Colton's face grew dreamy and far away, as if enjoying a particularly sweet memory.
But what about the markers? What did Colton mean when he said Jesus has markers? What are markers to a little kid?
Suddenly, I had it. "Colton, you said Jesus had markers. You mean like markers that you color with?"
Colton nodded. "Yeah, like colors. He had colors on him."
"Like when you color a page?"
"Well, what color are Jesus' markers?"
"Red, Daddy. Jesus has red markers on him."
I suddenly understood what Colton was trying to say. Quietly, carefully I said, "Colton, where are Jesus' markers?"
Without hesitation, he stood to his feet. He held out his right hand, palm up and pointed to the center of it with his left. Then he held out his left palm and pointed with his right hand. Finally, Colton bent over and pointed to the tops of both his feet.
"That's where Jesus' markers are, Daddy" he said.
I drew in a sharp breath. He saw this. He had to have.
We know where the nails were driven when Jesus was crucified, but you don't spend a lot of time going over those gruesome facts with toddlers and preschoolers. In fact, I didn’t know if my son had ever seen a crucifix. Catholic kids grow up with that image, but Protestant kids, especially young ones, just grow up with a general concept: "Jesus died on the cross".
I was also struck by how quickly Colton answered my questions. He spoke with the simple conviction of an eyewitness, not the carefulness of someone remembering the "right" answers learned in Sunday school or from a book.
"Colton, I'm going up to get some water," I said, really only wanting to exit the conversation. Whether or not he was done, I was done. I had enough information to chew on.
"Okay, Daddy," Colton said and bent to his toys.
Upstairs, in the kitchen, I leaned against the counter and sipped from a water bottle. How could my little boy know this stuff?
I took another sip of water and racked my brain about the cousin thing and the "markers". He didn't get that stuff from us. But even on the details I didn't understand at first, like the “markers”, Colton was insistent. And there was another thing about the markers that nagged at me. When I asked Colton what Jesus looked like, that was the first detail he popped out with. He'd said, right off the bat, "Jesus has markers."
I'd once heard a spiritual "riddle" that went like this: "What's the only thing in heaven that's the same as it was on earth?"
The answer: the wounds in Jesus' hands and feet. Maybe it was true. (1)
Just like Thomas, Colton was blessed to see the “markers” on our Lord’s hands and feet. And, of course, he was young enough to believe the veracity of what he was seeing. Thomas believed enough that he became a missionary and a martyr for his faith in India. Do we believe in the truth of what Jesus did for us when he died and rose from the dead? Do we believe in the sacrifice he made for each one of us? And if we do, does it make a difference in our lives? And if it does, then we can truly say along with the other disciples “we have seen the Lord”.
1. Edited from Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, pp. 65-69. Copyright 2010 by HIFR Ministries Inc. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN..)
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friend noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Before we begin to consider today's gospel, we need to put it in its place in John's gospel. On Easter morning, we heard how Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb only to find it empty. She went and told Peter and John, who verified for themselves that it was indeed empty. John notes that he himself "saw and believed" and together they returned to the other disciples who were still gathered in the Upper Room, leaving Mary at the tomb. She then sees and talks to the two angels who are in the tomb before conversing with "the gardener" and ultimately recognizing Jesus. This has to be one of the most tender and touching scenes in all of the gospels. Surely, Mary must have run up to him and given him a long, teary hug, just as any of us would do when we find a loved one who may have been lost, like a young child in the mall. But Jesus tells her to return to the disciples and tell them the news of his resurrection.
It would not be too much of a stretch to also surmise that the disciples probably didn't believe her. So, sure enough, our Lord appears to them himself. "Even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. 'Peace be with you,' he said. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side." We have to realize that the disciples must have been speechless to see Jesus stand before them and so he shows them his hands and his feet so that they can see his wounds and believe that it is truly him. Only then can they rejoice.
Scars are something we don't easily forget. We can remember every minute detail about how it happened. Whether it be from a fall or a cut, we remember all about it. Sometimes it can be a real trademark.
- On his television show one evening, Larry King introduced Harrison Ford by saying: "When Harrison was twenty-one years old, he ran his car into a telephone pole and hit his chin on the steering wheel. Since he didn't have a lot of money at the time, he didn't get proper treatment for the cut and it became a scar. Now, however, he wouldn't think of getting it removed because it has become his trademark."
- All too many years ago when I was in high school, I read Homer's Odyssey in the original Greek. (I could never do that now.) In the story, Odysseus, the main character, leaves home to have some pretty exciting adventures. When he finally returns home, he disguises himself as an elderly beggar so that no one will recognize him. That is, until an elderly woman who was his nursemaid, bathes him and sees the scar on his leg which he got when he was just a boy. Then she knew it was him.
So it is here with the disciples. Once they see his scars, they know beyond a doubt that it is the Lord. Beyond a doubt. Which brings us to Doubting Thomas. While the other disciples are ecstatic about having seen the Lord, Thomas asserts that he will not believe it until he too has seen the wounds, the scars, which will wipe away all doubt. So Jesus makes another command performance before all of the disciples and goes right to Thomas. Only then does he believe.
So what does all of this have to do with us? We are all scarred by life in one way or another, whether it be physically or perhaps emotionally. No one goes through life unscathed. Others can hurt us even inadvertently, that is, when they don't mean to, let alone intentionally. But with the scars comes understanding. When something has wounded us, only then can we understand how others who are so wounded can also feel. I was recently watching a movie about Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of "Alcoholics Anonymous". He was away from home on a business trip to Chicago and sought out another alcoholic to whom he could talk, someone who could understand what he was going through. That is how he met his co-founder, Dr. Robert Smith. They realized the power of woundedness, the power of sympathy, the power of compassion and the power of the listening ear.
We can also understand the power of sacrifice, the love which it takes to risk one's life for another.
- One day, a man named Bob Stearns was driving in northern Virginia when he saw a woman have an accident. Her car flipped over and caught on fire. Without thinking of himself, he stopped his car, ran over to her and, ignoring the flames, reached through the windshield and pulled her out of the car. Then, with the help of some others who had also stopped, he extinguished her burning clothes. It was only later that he realized that his arms were severely burned from his efforts. The picture in the newspaper showed him in the hospital receiving treatment. The woman would have surely died had he not done what he did. And because of it, he would be scarred for life. But I can tell you for a fact that when anyone sees those scars on him, they will not see the ugliness of the scars but the self-sacrificing love which caused them.
Here's another story which shows very vividly the meaning of self-sacrificing love.
- A little boy invited his mother to attend his elementary school's first teacher-parent conference. To the little boy's dismay, she said she would go. This would be the first time that his classmates and teacher met his mother and he was embarrassed by her appearance. Although she was a beautiful woman, there was a severe scar that covered nearly the entire right side of her face. The boy never wanted to talk about why or how she got the scar. At the conference, the people were impressed by the kindness and natural beauty of his mother despite the scar, but the little boy was still embarrassed and hid himself from everyone. He did, however, get within earshot of a conversation between his mother and his teacher, and heard them speaking. 'How did you get the scar on your face?' the teacher asked. The mother replied, "When my son was a baby, he was in a room that caught on fire. Everyone was too afraid to go in because the fire was out of control so I went in. As I was running toward his crib, I saw a beam coming down and I placed myself over him trying to shield him. I was knocked unconscious but fortunately, a fireman came in and saved both of us.' She touched the burned side of her face. 'This scar will be permanent, but to this day, I have never regretted doing what I did.' At this point, the little boy came running out toward his mother with tears in his eyes. He hugged her and felt an overwhelming sense of the sacrifice that his mother had made for him. (1)
If we entered into the Lord's passion during Holy Week, then we will understand what our Lord sacrificed and endured so that we might be saved, not from just any fire, but from the everlasting fire of hell which would have been our punishment for our sins. If you have read the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you will know that he entered into prayer so deeply that he was blessed with the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, in his hands and feet. Notice that "he was blessed" with the stigmata, not cursed with it.
It is said that "that which does not kill us makes us stronger". It is never easy to suffer, but if we persevere through our suffering, then we will be all the stronger for it. We will also be able to empathize with those who suffer similar ailments. Whether it be the loss of a limb from diabetes or the loss of hair from radiation treatments, only someone who has endured it can fully understand it. Only those who have been victims of prejudice can understand it no matter how much others may try "feel their pain". And with that sympathy comes a brotherhood which no one can take away.
If all of this is true, and who of us would deny that it is so, then Jesus "feels our pain" in a way that only another human being could. He became one like us and he suffered for us more than we will ever know. And through this suffering, he became our brother. Just as we would with anyone else, all we have to do is to take our suffering, our grief, our pain and give them to him. This will not take them away, but it will help us to know that he understands. If we only let him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Like Mary did, we need to bury ourselves in the loving arms of our Savior who is truly the Wounded Healer. Amen.
1. The Scar by Lih Yuh Kuo. Reprinted with the author's permission from A Fourth Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Hanoch McCarty and Meladee McCarty. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you became one like us to enter into our suffering. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you asked the Father to forgive us as you hung upon the cross. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you have taught us to forgive one another, as you have forgiven us. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Christ took on human flesh and became one like us so that, through his suffering, death and resurrection, he could bring us to eternal life. Because he understands our needs, as only a brother could, we can confidently bring our needs before him.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, teach us to forgive."
That the leaders of the Church may be compassionate ministers of reconciliation, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of all nations, especially in the middle East, will seek peace instead of war, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those whom we have welcomed into the Church at Easter will be a sign of Christ's continued presence among us, we pray to the Lord.
That all those whose lives have been scarred by division, dysfunction or abuse may find healing in the wounds of Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That all those affected by natural disasters throughout the world will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives and not give in to despair, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, your Son brought forgiveness to a world separated from you by sin. Just as he brought about reconciliation with you, grant us the grace of your Spirit to bring about reconciliation with one another. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.