Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Some of the Eastern Rite churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) have a customary way to greet each other during the Easter season. They will say, “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” The response is, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” I really like that ongoing reminder among the faithful. Christ IS risen, and we can rejoice! So, today I greet each of you with, “Christ is risen! Alleluia!”
I also want to thank so many of you who emailed, texted or just simply said, “Happy birthday,” to me last week. I don’t know how the word got out, but whoever the little gnome(s) were who shared my birth date with others, well, thank you for your loving thoughtfulness. It was a fun yet low-keyed affair spent reading cards, receiving calls from family members, and eating some favorite foods. So, thank you again for your thoughtfulness and care.
The office has been very quiet this week – typical for the week following Easter Sunday – so I don’t have any real news to share with you at this time. As always, if something momentous were to come up, we can send out an email to you in a flash.
On this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), our Gospel reading is that well-beloved account of Jesus’ first two encounters with His disciples. The first encounter takes place, “On the evening of that first day of the week.” The disciples have locked themselves in that upper room for fear of the Jewish leadership. Jesus is suddenly among them and says:
“Peace be with you.”
He then showed them his hands and his side. Seeing the risen Lord in their very presence turns their fears into rejoicing. Jesus again says, “Peace be with you,” and then He gifts them with their mission and with the power to forgive sins. We remember that there was one who was missing from the gathering. We don’t know where Thomas was or why he wasn’t with the rest of the community, and there have been all sorts of speculation concerning his absence. The truth is, we just don’t know. When he does rejoin the rest, they tell him that they have seen the Lord, and, as we know, he cannot take it in. He tells them that unless he himself sees and handles the places where the nails had pierced Jesus and where the spear had pierced His side, he just will not, and maybe just cannot, believe this remarkable story.
One week later, the community has gathered together again, and this time Thomas is there with all of them. Again, Jesus is suddenly and gently among them. Again, He greets them with, “Peace be with you.” Then the most beautiful part of this encounter takes place. He approaches Thomas and tells him to put his finger into the nail wounds and his hand into His wounded side. Thomas’ response?
“My Lord and my God!”
Now, we have all heard people call this disciple, “Doubting Thomas.” I don’t care for that term at all, and it is never used in the Gospels either. I believe it is more accurate for us to think that Thomas just couldn’t get his head around the awesome wonder of what the rest of the community was telling him. Thomas is us! Haven’t we all experienced doubts along our spiritual journey? Yet, in spite of our doubts, we continue along the journey because each step of it opens us to personal encounter with the Risen Lord. That encounter is the great dissolver of doubts, the answer to our present questions, and the very fountainhead of renewed faith. That sacred encounter not only led to Thomas’ great proclamation of, “My Lord and my God,” but by it, he also was made a partaker in the same gifts Jesus had showered on the other disciples at their first gathering a week before. Church tradition tells us that Thomas went on to preach thee Gospel in India and possibly China. A community of Christian believers known as the St. Thomas Christians continues to exist in India to this day. He is believed to have been martyred 21 December, 72 A.D., in India, where his relics are entombed. And all this because he had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. In these joyful days of Easter, we too can be called again to our mission to be faithful witnesses of the Risen Lord. We have encountered Him again through the celebrations of the Triduum and of Easter Sunday, so why would we not rejoice to go forth in our mission? May we all be encouraged and strengthened anew because we have encountered Him.
Have a blessed week. I look forward to being with you again soon.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!