Apr. 22, 2017

"Do not be unbelieving..."

"Do not be unbelieving anymore but believe" (John 20: 27-28) 

The Greek word, "Koinonia" stands for "Community" or "Communal life". It is the mainstay of the first reading. The apostles thrived through the community. They devoted themselves to teaching, breaking of the bread and to prayers. Together, the community experienced wonders and signs. They treated each other with respect and sincerity of heart. The community was a network of support for the faith to grow. Today, we hear arguments against the Church. It doesn't make sense when people suggest that we don't need to go to church to be saved. That's similar to saying that one doesn't need to go to school to be educated. Someone might say, "I read my books at home and understand clearly what I read. So, why go to school?" 

In the gospel, we read the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. We see in that encounter the effect of Thomas' absence from his faith community; the community of the apostles. Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection but Thomas is not there. Thomas comes in and his colleagues tell him that the Master has risen and has visited. For Thomas, that is fairy tale. He can't believe it. Resurrection is not that simple to believe. It is not common, so Thomas needs a proof. He wants to see for himself. Thomas doubts. But Mr. Thomas isn't alone in disbelieving the story of the resurrection. Scripture records that Jesus reproached the disciples, "for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised" (Mk.16:14). 

Don't we all doubt in life? We doubt God's presence when we are absent, away from God and from the Church. Jesus tells Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (Jn.20:29). The Church is the sign of the Risen Body of Christ on earth. The Church shares this Body through the Eucharist. She makes Christ known, and through the Scriptures spreads the faith. 

FAITH defines the Christian community, the Church. Faith is belief in God and in his absolute power. It is belief in His Son Jesus Christ who comes to save us. It is belief in the Holy Spirit who guides and directs us. Faith deals with the invisible, the transcendent. Saint Augustine calls it, "Credo Ut Intelligam" (I believe in order to understand) while Saint Anselm says, "I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand". Peter commands us, "Even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1Pet.1:8-9). That is the difference with Thomas. He wants to move from understanding to believing. 

Human beings believe in different things- in cars, food, doctors, parents, teachers, dogs, democracy, etc. These could disappoint us. But God does not disappoint, as Timothy says, "Even if we are faithless, He is faithful still" (2Tim.2:13). 

The Letter to the Hebrews writes, "faith is guarantee of the blessings that we hope for or the proof of the existence of realities that are unseen" (11:1). Again, "It is impossible to please God without faith since anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists" (11:6). Faith enhances and perfects reason because the object of faith is God.

 

Christ tells Thomas today, "Put your finger here; look here are my hands" (John 20: 27). He makes him feel Divinity, God's presence. Peter describes Him in the second reading as, "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His GREAT MERCY has given us a new birth as sons/daughters... (1Pet. 1:3). It is faith that attracts us to God's mercy. That's why Pope John Paul 11 instituted the DIVINE MERCY, ABUNDANT MERCY, EVER-FLOWING MERCY, which the church celebrates today. And Pope Francis says, "God's name is Mercy". 

We celebrate God's mercy as community fundamentally in the Blessed Eucharist, when we gather at the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2: 42). We feel Divine Mercy, we touch it. Like Thomas, God forgives and invites us always. He calls us by name and says, "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" (Jn.20:28). We feel his presence staring at us right from the Cross. We feel his presence at the sacrament of reconciliation as we are let off our burden of sin. We feel his presence as we greet the smiling faces of fellow worshippers in the pews. We feel his presence when we encounter our pastors and feel connected being members of His Body, the Church. We feel his presence as we recite the great words of the Lord's prayers, "...and forgive us our trespasses". We feel his presence as we extend forgiveness to others, "as we forgive those who trespass against us". We feel his presence when we bow down to receive Holy Communion exclaiming, "My Lord and my God". 

The Psalm of today recounts: "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" (Ps.118:2-4). We can only acknowledge God's mercy if we believe. His mercy endures for the weak, the sinner. His mercy endures for the parent, the child. His mercy endures for the husband, the wife. His mercy endures for the Mother-In-law, Father-In-law, Sons and Daughters-In-law. God's mercy endures for everyone, always and for all ages. Let's make ourselves agents of mercy as we receive mercy. Let's give mercy, that's why we're a community. God who is Mercy and whose mercy endures forever makes us agents of mercy on this special day. Mercy is Christ's gift to us after his resurrection. He says to his disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven..." (Jn.20:22-23). 

Is there anyone you need to forgive for offending or hurting you? Today is the perfect day: Divine Mercy. Pray about it in this Mass. Is that person here in the church, or at home? Now take God's mercy to the person. Give him/her the special divine mercy gift, and say, "I forgive you". It can be done if you believe