Friday, April 9, 2010

IInd Sunday of Easter-Divine Mercy

IInd Sunday of Easter- Divine Mercy Sunday

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. 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, in the middle of the night, the judge came to life. 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. This story almost sounds like one of the Gospel writers could have written it.

Thomas thought seeing is believing, but Jesus told him, believing is seeing. On this Second Sunday of Easter, we always hear the Gospel of Doubting Thomas proclaimed. This Gospel always leaves us pondering two main questions: “Why do we have doubts?” and, “Why do we have faith?”
The story of "doubting Thomas" is presented as a warning to those of us who have trouble trusting the spiritual side of life. We often assume that those who knew Jesus in the flesh had a great advantage over the rest of us and we may even envy them. In fact, however, the risen Lord is far more present to us now in the Spirit than he ever was in the flesh.
It is interesting that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, doubting Thomas, 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. Finally Thomas came to believe that Without faith, no evidence is sufficient; with faith, no evidence is necessary.

Faith is not just an idea. It is more than that. It is believing in the power of God to transform us. Thomas believed that Jesus had the supreme power to change the lives of all beings. That is why he acclaimed him Lord and God.

Theologian Karl Barth once remarked that to say the old line from the creed, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church" does not mean that we believe in the church. It means rather to believe that God is present and at work in the church, that "in this assembly, the work of the Holy Spirit takes place. ... We do not believe in the Church: but we do believe that in this congregation the work of the Holy Spirit becomes an event."

The tragedy that happened with Thomas was that he had separated himself from the disciples and therefore, in his solitude, missed the resurrection appearance. I think that john is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing his unique presence.
The moment we keep ourselves away from the believing community we run the risk of losing the redeeming presence of the Lord. The Lord promised his abiding presence with his believing community. When two or three are gathered together in your name, I will be in your midst. I will be with you till the end of the world..

We have faith because Jesus has given us life. The tomb is empty, but our lives are full. Jesus Christ is our deepest love. His presence makes all life worthwhile. His presence is a guarantee of eternal life. His presence is a guarantee of eternal love.
Thomas said: "I will not believe unless I see." This "seeing" is what others demand of us. They ask that we reflect Jesus, the Risen Lord, in our lives, by selfless love, unconditional forgiveness and humble service.
Let us have the courage of our convictions to share our faith as St. Thomas did, going all the way to India to spread his personal experience of His Lord and God. We are not to keep the gift of faith locked in our hearts, but to share it with our children, our families and our neighbors.

This Sunday is also called Divine Mercy Sunday. When we consider our human condition with all our doubts and with our need for faith, we have a deeper understanding that we live under the mercy of God. Of all the Apostles, perhaps Doubting Thomas experienced this mercy most dramatically. Jesus wasn’t offended by Thomas’ hesitation and resistance, he was just eager to get his faith back.
We are all Doubting Thomases. We all resist God's action in our lives in one way or another, get mad at him, don't trust him, and rebel against him. In his conversations with St Faustina, Jesus promised to unleash on the world a flood of mercy. The flood hasn't yet reached every heart. All we need to do is keep ever on our lips that prayer that he himself taught to St Faustina: Jesus, I trust in you.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Homily

EASTER -2010;: ACTS 10:34, 37-43;: COL 3:1-4;: JOHN 20: 1-9
The late Catholic Archbishop of Hartford, John Whealon, who had undergone cancer surgery resulting in a permanent colostomy, wrote these very personal words in one of his last Easter messages: "I am now a member of an association of people who have been wounded by cancer. That association has as its symbol the phoenix bird of Egyptian mythology. When the bird felt its death was near, every 500 to 1,461 years, it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire. When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes. Thus the phoenix bird symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death. It was one of the earliest symbols of the risen Christ. In the same way, any person who has survived a struggle with cancer is considered phoenix-like, having risen from the ashes of disease and been given a new lease on life. Suddenly life becomes more precious to that person. Each hour is lived more fully. Each friend seems much more real. The sky seems more blue, the sunshine more beautiful, and the colors more vivid. Even dull and ordinary things are causes for gratitude to God.” Archbishop John Whealon could have lived in a gloomy tomb of self-pity, hopeless defeat, and chronic sadness, but his faith in the resurrected Lord opened his eyes to new visions of life.
Today, “death is dead.! Fear is no more! Death is dead!” Whatever is killing us right now, whatever grave clothes have trapped and wrapped themselves around us like a python, whatever straightjackets we find ourselves in, we can escape. We can walk into the light and experience the miracle of life. “Death is dead.” And because “death is dead,” there is a new world of new possibilities for all of humanity.
Easter declares that the tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn." Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark "but the darkness did not remain. The dawn broke. God's Son had risen.
The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles--it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes:” If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15: 14, 17, 20). Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who met a tragic end. People would remember some of his teachings and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection. It is our belief in the real presence of the risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers. Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations, and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.
Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his resurrection. Each time we display our love of others, we share in the resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the resurrection of Jesus. Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection or death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him.
The Easter story is not only an event, it is a way of life. The resurrection of Jesus gives Christians the hope that death is never the end, and invites us to be mindful of Easter moments in the midst of our everyday lives. Making Easter a way of life means that we turn our eyes toward resurrection each and every day, searching for its signs, believing in its truth, living into its glory.
Resurrection is good news, but at the same time, it’s sometimes painful because it involves death. Before the power of the resurrection can take hold in our own lives, we’re called to die to sin, to die to self. We may even have to die to our own dreams, so that God can do what He wants to do with our lives. Resurrection is about seeing our world in a new way. Early that Easter morning, Mary did not find what she was looking for, the dead body of Jesus. But she found something better than she could have imagined: the risen Jesus. Sometimes, the things we think we want most are not granted to us. What we get instead is an experience of God’s new ways of working in the world. That’s the power of the resurrection. When those moments come, we must spread the news--just as Mary did: We have seen the Lord!
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark. But the darkness was soon overcome with light. Maybe that's the message you need to hear this day. Perhaps for whatever reason you are in darkness right now. Family concerns. Problems at work. Anxiety about your health and your future. The loss of someone you love. Easter promises us more than the stars in our darkness. Easter promises us that in the midst of our deepest darkness the Son rises to overwhelm the darkness forever.

As we celebrate this Easter Sunday, the greatest Sunday of the year, let us resolve to make our Sundays different, different than the way a non-catholic lives his Sunday. Let’s resolve to honor the Lord not only with our voices, but also with our hearts. Let’s promise him that between now and the Pentecost we will use our creativity to make our Sundays different. Let’s not just enjoy Easter, let’s let it change our lives. Christ’s resurrection is not just a nice idea; it is the power of eternal life at work in us. Let’s open our hearts for the power of Christ’s resurrection seep into the depths of our minds and hearts.