2nd Sunday of Easter – April 28, 2019
Mass for those in Consecrated Life
I am always touched by this gospel passage that we hear every year on the Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday. At the very heart of our Easter celebration, the Church offers for our consideration the story of one of Jesus’ closest followers who doubted – who just didn’t have it within his ability to believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s look at Thomas a bit more closely in order to come to a better understanding of his significance in our lives as people of faith.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Thomas in today’s gospel is that, initially, he was apart from the community of disciples. For some reason, he wasn’t with them. What’s more, when Thomas eventually reunited with the disciples and was told about their experience of the Risen Lord, his faith seemed to waiver. He said that he wouldn’t believe the disciples unless he had proof – unless he could probe the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side.
Who knows how and why St. Thomas became so contrary in the midst of the miracle of the resurrection? Yet, one thing is clear. In not being a part of the community of believers, Thomas missed the opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus. And because he missed that opportunity – because he was alone and apart – his fears and doubts likely intensified. … “I will not believe, unless … .”
Sometimes the best of us wonder about our relationship with the Church, don’t we? … The past nine months have given us good reason to question many aspects of the Church’s life and ministry as we confront the reality of the abuse of children and the abuse of power by priests and bishops. The heartbreaking stories of innocent victims have left not a few of us bewildered at how some Church leaders who preached the sanctity of human life could, at the same time, so callously disregard it. … Sometimes, like Thomas, we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to believe and accept some aspect of our faith for one reason or another.
Yet, look carefully at Jesus’ response to Thomas in today’s gospel. While Jesus lifted up and called “blessed” all those souls who had not seen him as raised from the dead and who still believed, nowhere in his encounter with Thomas does Jesus berate him or diminish him because of his doubts and struggles. On the contrary, Jesus engages Thomas – loves and accepts him as he is – and sends him forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God and build Church.
Jesus’ acceptance of Thomas – with his doubts and questions – was a sign not only to the earliest believers but also to Christians throughout the ages – including me and you – that the mercy of God, poured forth into our world from the cross of Jesus, trumps the brokenness and sin of our world and our lives. It is hardly by accident that Saint John Paul II designated the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Today we also gather in prayer to reflect upon a unique gift that is a part of the life-giving Church of the risen Jesus: the gift of consecrated life. We reflect upon women and men who have understood and embraced the Lord’s universal call to holiness and mission. We join together in our Cathedral to acknowledge woman and men celebrating jubilees of 25, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75 and even 80 years in religious life who collectively represent over 3,485 years of service to the People of God. … What a blessing you have been and continue to be for all of us.
In short, we celebrate your embrace of the mission that Jesus entrusted to Thomas – to the other apostles – to all of the baptized – and particularly to each of you – to witness to the life and mercy of the risen Lord and to build the Church.
Earlier this year at a Mass celebrated on the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life – which we commemorate today – Pope Francis shared words that prophetically seem to reflect the heart of today’s gospel exchange between Thomas and Jesus. Recall that apart from the community of disciples, Thomas waivered in his faith and struggled to find a way forward. Yet, when immersed in the community’s life and mission, Thomas was open to encountering the risen Lord and to assuming his role as a missionary of God’s mercy.
“If we call to mind our original meeting with the Lord,” Pope Francis states, “we become aware that it did not arise as something private between us and God. No, it blossomed in the context of a believing people, alongside many brothers and sisters, at precise times and places. The Gospel tells us this, showing how the encounter takes place within the people of God. … It is like this too in the consecrated life: it blossoms and flourishes in the Church; if it is isolated, it withers. … We ask then for the grace to rediscover the living Lord amid a believing people, and to allow the charism we have received to encounter today’s graces.”
Then the Holy Father went on to speak words of encouragement to those in Consecrated Life like so many of you whom we honor and for whom we pray this day. In the face of so many challenges that confront our world, our Church and our lives, Francis was so typically “real” in his assessment of where we find ourselves today. He was also typically hopeful because of what we’ve been given through the Easter mysteries and the mercy of God.
“This then is the consecrated life,” he said. “It is praise which gives joy to God’s people, prophetic vision that reveals what counts. When it is like this, then it flowers and becomes a summons for all of us to counter mediocrity: to counter a devaluation of our spiritual life, to counter the temptation to reduce God’s importance, to counter an accommodation to a comfortable and worldly life. … Consecrated life today is not about survival, it is not about preparing ourselves for death. … It’s about new life. It is a living encounter with the Lord in his people. It is a call to the faithful obedience of daily life and to the unexpected surprises from the Spirit. It is a vision of what we need to embrace in order to experience joy: Jesus.”
With deep gratitude, my sisters and brothers, we give thanks for your prophetic vision in the life of the Church. Encouraged by your witness, may we look beyond our doubts and struggles to walk together in faith, reflecting always the love and mercy of Jesus in our lives.