Whenever we look forward to an event or activity that is outside, we hope that the weather will be good. When we work hard we hope our efforts will bear fruit. As we continue our celebration of Easter, which can only take place if we live our lives as people of faith (since for the world outside of faith Easter is another holiday that is past), we cannot help but to be amazed and inspired by the unwavering hope of Jesus for us. In last Sunday’s Gospel from John 20:19-31 we reflected on two post Resurrection appearances of Jesus. In both of them His greeting was, “Peace be with you!”
While the men He appeared to had their hopes dashed on Good Friday, we see that Jesus did not waver for a moment in His hopes for His followers. In spite of their doubts, fears, guilt, and confusion, He loved them more than they really understood. Jesus knew that it was His love for them that would raise them up to fullness of life with Him. The wavering faith of doubting Thomas did not in any way discourage Jesus or cause Him to get angry. He simply invited Thomas to put his fingers in the wounds on His body. The reaction of Thomas was a proclamation of joy, wonder, gratitude, and amazement: “My Lord and my God!” Each one of us can put ourselves in the position of Thomas. At times we have doubts. Our society, as the society Thomas lived in, challenges us over and over again to live with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength our faith in Jesus as Catholics in today’s world.
In today’s Gospel, we are given another opportunity to reflect on a post Resurrection appearance of Jesus. When they first see Him they think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus patiently and lovingly assures them that He is not a ghost but their Lord and God who loves them as brothers and children of the Father with Him. He points out that He is the one who fulfilled the hopes of Israel for a Messiah. Even before Jesus rose from the dead, He rose above all during His earthly life that would slow Him down and entrap Him in spacious and useless conversations, actions, and arguments. As it was then, so today many groups proclaim they have the truth about what can and should be done to live life to the fullest. Public opinion is fueled by different groups, the media, and government officials to do what they think is best for themselves and for all. That is the very reason Jesus was crucified. The religious leaders of His time turned public opinion enough against Him and pressured Pilate to pass the sentence of death. Ironically, they thought they were the source of truth and life, while in very fact Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. In these post Resurrection appearances, we see how we are challenged to rise above public opinion, confusion, doubts, and falsehoods to see the true meaning of our lives.
In his book about St. John Paul II “The End and the Beginning,” George Weigel speaks about the dynamic, Christ-filled hope of this sainted pope. In fact the official biography of St. John Paul II which Weigel wrote at the request of St. John Paul II himself is entitled “Witness to Hope.” In the first book mentioned above, Weigel writes: “In October 1995, speaking from the green marble rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly, Pope John Paul II described himself as a “witness to hope” at the end of a century of fear: “It is one of the great paradoxes of our time that man, who began the period we call “modernity” with a self-confident assertion of his “coming of age” and “autonomy,” approaches the end of the twentieth century fearful of himself, fearful of what he might be capable of, fearful of the future..... In order to ensure that the new millennium now approaching will witness a new flourishing of the human spirit, mediated through an authentic culture of freedom, men and women must
learn to conquer fear. We must learn not to be afraid, we must discover a spirit of hope and a spirit of trust....and regain sight of that transcendent horizon of possibility to which the soul of man aspires.” That is exactly what we see in today’s Gospel as we did in last week’s Gospel. Jesus appears to those who had the blessing of being with Him during His earthly life and seeing in Him all we are truly capable of as human beings. After the disciples were assured of His love and their presence in His heart they embraced Him and followed Him as their way, truth, and life. That is exactly why we are here today. What Jesus did the apostles continued and now it is our time.
The last century saw unbelievable progress in the worlds of technology, medicine, and communication. And, as St. Pope John Paul II was very aware of since He lived through World War II in Nazi-occupied Poland, there was the horror of our growing human capability to destroy and take human life. More than ever St. Pope John Paul II had our hopes, hopes founded on faith in the Risen Christ, that we will rise above all that destroys, abuses, and threatens human life.
Obviously, we still have a long way to go. Hedonism, consumerism, and a false understanding of freedom continue to wreak havoc in the lives of individuals and in the moral fabric of our world and society. The way of Jesus is the way of humility, sacrifice, compassion, mercy, and love. We are diluting and eradicating these pure virtues with exceptions and excuses, all of which simply separate us further and further from one another and from God Himself. Weigel tells us in his book: “John Paul II’s hope animated his conviction that sanctity was within the reach of every baptized person who was willing to open himself and herself to the grace of God.” How challenging, but how life-giving and fulfilling it is to know that we have a God-given and God sustained purpose in life. O the joy, strength, and power we have through, with, and in our Risen Lord!
Fr. WaldBACK TO LIST