'My Lord and my God!' Second Sunday of Easter Year B
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel John 20:19-31 (NAB)
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.
I remember watching Blessed John Paul II's last public appearance on Easter Sunday, 27 March 2005. It was very clear that he would not be with us for much longer. He died six days later, on Easter Saturday. What was most poignant was his effort to speak. But not a word would come out of the mouth of this frail man who had become pope nearly 27 years earlier at the age of 58, still very athletic and with a strong, baritone voice.
But his voiceless final blessing had an authority that his 'Do not be afraid' did not have when he was elected as Bishop of Rome, even though that had great power too. But now John Paul had the authority of one who had suffered in the service of others, one whose physical vigour had disappeared. He was carrying the scars of life.
This photo of Estefanio and Teresita Luceño, 60 years married, was taken last year in Bukidnon, a province in Mindanao and the name of which means 'mountainous'. Estefanio, father of Columban lay missionary Aurora, died on Holy Saturday. I haven't seen a photo of the couple on their wedding day. I am certain that Mr and Mrs Luceño made a handsome couple. But the beauty they had on their wedding day is different from the beauty in the photo above which shows the beauty of two lives of 85 years, 60 of those given to each other, to raising their eight children and loving their 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. It is a beauty that you can find only in older persons or in those who have suffered. It is a beauty that makes us want to be like them, not in the sense that advertisers of 'beauty products' mean but in the sense of wanting us to desire holiness as St Thérèse defined it: Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants to be'.
Fr Joseph Murtagh was a much loved Columban priest who worked in Mindanao for more than 40 years, suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for more than 20 of those before retiring to Ireland in 2001. While he needed care in St Columban's Nursing/Retirement Home there he in turn provided a listening ear for fellow Columbans and for the staff. Many of those were immigrants and they cried with deep sorrow when he died in 2007 at the age of 79. They recognised the presence of Jesus in Father Joe through the limitations that MS imposed on him but that gave him a remarkable empathy for others in their pain, in whatever way they experienced it.
St Thomas the Apostle has two nicknames. One is 'Didymus', 'The Twin', that we find in the gospels. The other is somewhat pejorative, 'Doubting Thomas'. Yes, he did doubt. But he also expressed the most magnificent and clearest act of faith in all the Scriptures, My Lord and My God! He had said that he would not believe until he had seen the scars of the Lord. Seeing them and being asked by the Risen Jesus to put his fingers in them led to his act of faith.
May we recognise Jesus the Risen Lord, not only in his Word, not only in the Blessed Sacrament, but in the scars of others and in those we carry ourselves.
The Apostle St Thomas, Jusepe Martínez, c.1630