Bottom line: Jesus invites us to not be unbelieving, but to believe and to touch his wounds - the wounds of his mystical body, our hurting Church.
On Easter Sunday we heard the challenge to rebuild our lives, to rebuild the Church. I mentioned Jesus has a two-step program for doing exactly that. We see the two steps in our Gospel.
The first step is what Jesus says to Thomas, "Do not be unbelieving, but believe". You might say: Well, I would believe if Jesus appeared to me and showed me his wounds. OK, but has God not given you reason to believe? For sure, there are always reasons to doubt, but Jesus' words indicate that belief involves an element of decision. Jesus tell Thomas, "Do not be unbelieving, but believe". Even after dramatic evidence, Thomas still has to make a choice.*
Anthony DeStephano wrote a book, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To. The first is simple and direct: "God, show me you exist." I tried it a few years ago. Like every human being I have emotions of doubt, but I don't want to be ruled by emotions. So I said that prayer, "God, show me you exist." Within a week I received a lovely confirmation.
If a person takes seriously God's existence, the implications are staggering. We don't naturally welcome those implications. To be honest I'd rather be the center of the universe, just follow my impulses. That way seems comfortable and comforting, but it does not lead to peace. Faith, while it makes demands, leads to flourishing. "Do not be unbelieving, but believe".
Belief is the first step in Jesus' two-step plan. The second is more nitty gritty: to touch Jesus' Body. That's what Jesus invites Thomas to do - to touch his wounds. Many people shrink from this. It's one thing to believe - especially intellectually. It's something else to touch his body.
The importance of touching Jesus' Body was brought home to me by an unlikely book: Alienated America. After the 2016 election Timothy Carney began investigating what's happening in our country. Why do so many of our fellow Americans feel depressed, like the American dream is dead for them? Carney visited parts of our nation where industries folded or relocated leaving people unemployed or without a decent paying job. He began to observe that while some of those communities collapsed, others bounced back and even thrived. What was the difference? The thriving communities had functioning networks of families and church. They had other civic organizations, but church congregations were crucial.
Carney realized that the American dream involves a lot more than a well paying job. Even more important is having a network where a person feels needed and loved. Those communities where families were breaking apart and churches were shrinking or closing - those communities tended to sink, often into alcohol, drugs, isolation and even suicide. A lot of the isolated people are actually believers who read their Bible. Yet they don't connect with a church community.
Carney's book, Alienated America, made me do a lot of thinking and soul searching. Whatever time God gives me I want to call people not only to faith in Jesus, but also to connect with other believers. It's interesting that Jesus insists on physical sacraments. Unless you be born again by water and the Holy Spirit you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life within you. You cannot receive the sacraments in isolation. The sacraments bring us into a physical relation not only with the Risen Jesus but also with other believers. People tell me they don't like organized religion. I tell them, St. Mary of the Valley is the place for you! No one has accused us of being organized but we do have the sacraments and we do want you to connect with other parishioners.
In his book, Tim Carney tells the benefits he experiences from involvement in his own parish. Now, I am not saying to get involved for what you can get out of it. Still, it's true what Jesus says, Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.
So that's it. Jesus two-step program: believe and touch his body. It can involve times of frustration. Next Sunday we'll hear about a group of disciples working together all night and not catching a single fish. Then Jesus turns things around.
Today Jesus invites us to not be unbelieving, but to believe and to touch his wounds - the wounds of his mystical body, our hurting Church. And to experience what he says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed". Amen.
*Judas witnessed dramatic evidence. That did not prevent him from valuing money more than Jesus.
Audio Homilies for Mercy Sunday:
Homilies for Triduum 2019:
Divine Mercy Sunday homily: Two-Step Program
From Archives (Divine Mercy Sunday Homilies):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru