30 April 2011

'My Lord and my God!' Second Sunday of Easter. Blessed John Paul

Doubting Thomas, Guercino

Readings (New American Bible, used in Philippines and 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.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, the last day of the Octave of Easter. In 2000 Pope John Paul named this day ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. However, there are no changes whatever in the liturgical texts as a result of this. I must confess that I’m not too enthused about what is essentially a private, though worthy, devotion, that observes a novena from Good Friday to the Second Sunday of Easter, in a sense cutting across the central celebration of the Church’s year. No feasts may be celebrated during Holy Week or the Easter Octave.

However, I discovered that ‘The Three O’Clock Prayer’ is very ancient and is used in the liturgies of the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. I have heard it over the sound-systems of department stores here in the Philippines where the Divine Mercy devotion is strong.

Here is the prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy on us and on the whole world (repeat thrice). Jesus, King of mercy, I trust in you!

St Thomas’s profession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God!’ is the most explicit in all the Scriptures. He has always got a ‘bad press’, not having a ‘spin-doctor’, as ‘Doubting Thomas’. But there’s no greater act of faith than his. And it is in the scars on the body of Jesus that he recognises the Risen Lord.

How many people we know who carry similar scars that are the marks of a life spent loving others. The wrinkles on the face of Blessed Mother Teresa and on the brows of many others, signs of love that call forth trust in the young. Wounds sustained through saving the lives of others, like a blind man I knew at home in Dublin who had been a soldier in the Irish army. During training exercises a grenade went off and he threw himself on it to save others. He survived, though ready to give up his life, but without his sight for the rest of his life. Filipino Jesuit seminarian Richie Fernando did the same in Cambodia to save the lives of the young persons with disabilities, victims of war, with whom he was working. One of them threw a grenade, in October 1996, and Richie, only 26, gave up his life and saved everyone else.

Pope John Paul II will be beatified today. When elected in 1978 he was a vigorous and athletic person, though a little stooped as a result of an accident in a quarry when he was a student. He spoke with a vigorous voice. But the whole world saw the scars of old age and illness, perhaps exacerbated by the shooting he survived in 1981, gradually taking their toll. The most poignant scene of all was his last appearance at his window on Easter Sunday 2005 when he couldn’t utter a word, this man who had spoken so powerfully on so many occasions. But his voicelessness, just days before his death, had an eloquence beyond words.

This production by saltandlight.org, Thank You, John Paul II, shows the scars of love, the love of Jesus the Risen Lord himself, shared with the whole world by the man we will now call ‘Blessed John Paul’.

After posting this I came across an article by Nicole Winfield in today's Irish Independent about Pope John Paul's personal photographer, Arturo Mari, The day 'a living saint' kissed 800 lepers one by one

One extract:
IT was May 4, 1984 and Pope John Paul II was visiting Sorok Island off South Korea, a leper colony where several hundred people with the disfiguring disease were receiving care.

Arturo Mari was there, as he was on all the Pontiff's trips, a silent witness to almost every papal audience, Mass, vacation and dinner party, public or private.

As the Pope's personal photographer, Mari had nearly unrestricted access to John Paul's 27-year papacy, and his verdict as the Pontiff's beatification approaches is unwavering: he was a living saint.

The protocol that day in 1984 called for John Paul to enter the Sarok pavilion, where the patients were gathered, give a brief speech on the meaning of suffering, then leave. But after surveying the scene, John Paul brushed aside a cardinal who tried to speed him along, and set to work.

"He touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one," Mari said. "Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one! For me he was a man of God," the 71-year-old photographer said.

"I can guarantee you he was a living saint, because everything I could see with my eyes, hear with my ears, you cannot believe that this man could do so much."

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