Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Lord and My God

(2nd Sunday of Easter, A)

Thomas wasn’t with the others when they first saw the Risen Lord. As John tells us, he didn’t believe it right away. He wanted to see for himself. Thomas wants to make sure that whatever experience the disciples were having, this was the same Jesus who they knew in his historical life. That’s why he wants to see and touch Jesus’ wounds, to make sure that this Risen Lord is the same guy. But even though—thanks to many artists—we often imagine Thomas touching the Lord’s wounds, the evangelist never says that he did. In fact, as soon as Thomas sees the Lord, right away he utters the greatest and most perfect of confessions, “My Lord and my God!” At that moment, all of his conditions and caveats evaporate in a moment of perfect vision and faith.

Nevertheless, Thomas’s concerns are matters for us too. For we too need to come to grips with the challenging and amazing truth that the Jesus whose teachings and miracles we proclaim in the Gospels each Sunday, this Jesus is the same Lord who is present to us now.

This is the good news of the Resurrection, that Jesus Christ, the Word of God made man, who walked the earth with his dusty feet, is just as present to us now as we was to his first disciples who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a picture of how the Risen Lord is present to us: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”

Prayer is the primary way the Resurrected Lord is present to us. When we pray it seems to us that it is something we are doing, and that it is we who are praying to God. But this is a kind of optical illusion of the spiritual eyes. Prayer happens not when we do something, but when we simply consent to the Holy Spirit praying within us. The Holy Spirit, who after all is the abiding presence of Jesus in the Church, prays within us, catching us up into the loving and dynamic inner life of the Trinity of God. Prayer is nothing more than that, but what more could we want?

The Breaking of Bread is also one of the preeminent ways that the Risen Jesus abides with us. Just as his human body was broken on the Cross and given for the life of the world, so the bread of this Eucharist is broken for our spiritual nourishment. St. Francis of Assisi marveled at the humility and gentleness of a God who was willed to be present to us “under the little form of bread.” He called it God’s “sublime humility” and “humble sublimity.”

These blessings are free to all. If only we are willing to see the Risen Lord among us in our prayer and in the Breaking of Bread, we will realize that we too have been raised up with Christ and have received a “new birth to a living hope” as St. Peter says in the second reading today. And just like it happened to St. Thomas, with this realization our heart will blurt out, “My Lord and my God!”

We too see the Risen Lord, and if we consent to it, this experience of faith will give us such strength that we will actually burn with the desire to transform our world into the life of perfect generosity and communal sharing we heard about in the Acts of the Apostles.

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