17 April 2009

'Doubting' Thomas or a man of great faith?

Doubting Thomas, Guercino (1591-1666)

Second Sunday of Easter

Readings: New American Bible (Philippines, USA), Jerusalem Bible (Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland, Australia).

Every year on this Sunday preachers talk about St Thomas’s ‘lack of faith’. Indeed he's known to us as 'Doubting Thomas'. I’m not so sure about that. When he puts his fingers in the marks of the nails on the body of the Risen Lord her makes the clearest expression of faith in the whole Bible: ‘My Lord and My God’. I learned these words when I was very young and we often said it quietly, as I recall, after the consecration in the Old Mass, if I may use that term. Indeed, in Ireland it is one of the approved acclamations after the consecration.

When I celebrate Mass with the Deaf here in Bacolod City many of the hearing people who attend use St Thomas’s words after the consecration of the bread and of the wine. One of my confreres, Father Terence Bennett, who recently retired to Ireland after spending most of the past 57 or so years here in the Philippines, encouraged this too in the various parishes where he worked.
Another saint who gets a ‘bad press’ from preachers is St Martha because of what Jesus said to her when he visited her and her sister Mary (Lk 10:38-42): But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."

Yet it was the same Martha who expressed her faith in Jesus so clearly after the death of her brother Lazarus (Jn 11:21-27): Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; * he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Another aspect of this Sunday’s gospel is that it highlights the fact that the Risen Lord carries the scars of his death and life. In our chapel in Espinos Village, Bacolod City, where I live, there is a statue of the Risen Jesus over the altar. However, I noticed after some time here that the scars weren’t to be seen. They are now. Whatever form our suffering takes, when united with that of Jesus it brings his life to others and brings us closer to sharing in his Resurrection: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints (Col 1:24-26).


I'm off this morning to Dumaguete City, in the southeast of Negros island, about six hours by bus from Bacolod City, where I live, to be part of a team giving a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. Please pray for us.

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