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Come and See!


2 EASTER - 2019


The Word…


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 nail marks
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…
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."
(from Jn 20:19-31)

Pondering the Word…

What’s Thomas up to during the week after Jesus’ death? It’s a dangerous time in Jerusalem. As a Galilean, he’s taking a pretty big risk being out and about. He’s heard of Mary’s encounter with Jesus and the story of the empty tomb. The travelers to Emmaus have shared their experience as well. Maybe he just needs to be alone in his grief and doubt.

But he is emphatic when he meets the others. The phrase “I will not believe” translates even more definitively:

“I will most certainly not have faith.” You can see him with his arms folded in front of him, a sad, stern look on his face. But listen to what he says will prove Jesus’ resurrection for him: it’s not Jesus coming in majesty surrounded by angels; it’s not him preaching and healing as he did before he died. Proof for Thomas will be found in the marks of Jesus’ suffering.

Grief and doubt can creep in for us as well. Easters come and go but the real meaning of the Resurrection seems lost on us amid the realities of our everyday lives. We might know people who radiate God’s love and we long to have that same experience of joy.

Perhaps we need to take a lesson from Thomas. If we think Christ is only available to us in the mystery, the victory, and the joy of the Resurrection, we are seeing only half the picture. Christ’s presence is also found, most assuredly, in his suffering. 

Living the Word…

Falling and rising, death and new life…it is the story of nature, the story of our existence, the story God is willing to live out with us to give us hope. “The Divine Mercy, like alchemy, transforms the leaden burden into precious substance.” (Thomas Howard) We need to share this essential message, particularly with our young people. But it’s important that we share both sides of the story. Our scars matter. Our stories of survival and rebirth matter, not as something we dwell on or bemoan, but as context for our faith and hope. Do you know someone who is low on hope? The very best thing you can do is to just listen, but as appropriate, share your own story in a way that shows empathy and compassion for their struggle. “We meet God most fully in the realm of mercy.” (Anthony Bloom) How can your story lead others to Divine Mercy, the source of all hope?

Apr 29: “Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness...” (Acts 4:23-31)

Peter and John have just returned from spending a night in jail. Tensions are high and the assembly prays together: ‘Lord, see what we are up against here? We need double the ration of your Spirit to give us strength to persevere.’ Most of us are not called upon to defend our faith, but think about taking time each morning to consider the challenges you might face in the coming day, not as a cause for anxiety, but as an opportunity to ask God for a specific grace. You’ll be amazed at what this kind of prayer can do for you!

Apr 30:  The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…There was no needy person among them…(Acts 4:32-37)

People point to this passage to say that the early Christian community practiced a form of what we now call socialism. But that word is loaded, both in terms of ideology and in practice. A community of one heart and mind might just be able to make this work for a while but the larger the group becomes, the more difficult it is to maintain. Communities are made up of human beings--therein lies the problem! But it doesn’t mean we ignore the lessons of that first community. We need to take a closer look at what we consider “our possessions,” as Pope Francis encourages us to do. Are clean air and water, gainful employment, education, and adequate healthcare “possessions” for the well-to-do, or basic human rights? Does 10% of the world’s population need or deserve 90% of the wealth? Things are clearly out of balance, but it’s not an either/or proposition. What can you do to foster common-sense solutions to foster the common good?

May 1:God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life…And this is the verdict: the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light…” (Jn 3:16-21)

This first sentence is quoted so frequently I forget it is part of the discussion Jesus has with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, skilled in rabbinical debate and Hebrew wordplay. I wonder if he catches the irony in Jesus’ words about light and darkness, given it is under the cloak of darkness that he meets with Jesus. “People prefer darkness to light.” I’d like to disagree, but the world around me (and inside me) causes me to take Jesus’ words to heart. Let us be willing to seek him out, even in the sometimes harsh, judgmental light of day.

May 2: For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. (Jn 3:31-36)

Jesus does not pick and choose who gets to hear the words of God. He does not “ration his gift of the Spirit.”  Where do we, in our lives and institutions, put restrictions on who is welcome at the table or worthy to receive the gift of Christ’s Spirit? What do you think Jesus would say if he saw us rationing the gift of his Spirit?

 May 3: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork….Not a word nor a discourse whose voice is not heard; through all the earth their voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, their message. (Ps 19)

At first read, it may sound like the psalmist is being contradictory: “there is no utterance…their voice is never heard. Through all the earth their voice goes out.” (Hebrew translation) But if you’ve ever been captivated by nature, you know what the psalmist is saying here. The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” It is springtime where I live and the grandeur of God is on full display. Take time to be in nature—not just running from your house to your car to your office and back again—but spend at least 15 minutes a day in silence in nature. Listen. The heavens declare the glory of God in wordless verse that the most gifted of poets cannot rival. Give God thanks for the marvels of the universe!

May 4: Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Ps 33)

The psalms this week have been particularly powerful, especially when you read the Hebrew versions. Verse 22 of today’s psalm is translated: “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we have yearned for you.” Ooh, I like that so much better! “As we place our trust in you” sounds business-like to me, more reliant on our action rather than on the deep, essential longing in our hearts for God. While some of the beauty of the poetry in the psalms is lost in the translation from Hebrew, it’s always refreshing to read a different take on the same old verse. If Scripture is getting a bit stale for you, it might be time to do some research. Don’t just wing it; there are less than reliable versions out there! Look for scholarly sources or consult your pastor or the website of your faith practice. It’s amazing how changing a simple word or two can make a big difference in your prayer. 

Elaine Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life. She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental psychology and spiritual guidance.  Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children, David and Maggie.


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