2nd Sunday of Easter
Acts 4.32-35; Ps 117 (118); I Jn 5.1-6; Jn 20.19-31
The Moso (Phyllostachys pubescens) is a bamboo plant that grows mostly in China and the Far East. Moso bamboo is the largest of the cold-hardy bamboos, growing to a height of 75 feet with a diameter of eight inches. After the Moso is planted, no visible growth occurs for up to fifty days - even under ideal conditions! Then, as if by magic, it suddenly begins growing to its full height of 75 feet within six weeks. The Moso’s rapid growth is due to the miles of roots (rhizomes) it has developed during those two months of getting ready. Jesus’ parable of the sower invites us to be patient when we fail to achieve instant results from the preaching we do through our exemplary lives of bearing witness to Jesus and his gospel.
Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground
One of William Barclay's friends tells this story. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, 1996) In the church where he worshiped, there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. As he had outlived all his friends, hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, his only old friend had the feeling that there would be no one else to go to the funeral. So he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting, an officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. He came to the graveside for the religious ceremony. When the pastor finished his prayers, the officer stepped forward and gave a solemn military salute to Thomas in the closed coffin as if to a dead king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier's raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general. The general said, "You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday school teacher. I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end." Thomas did not know what he was doing. No preacher or teacher ever does. Keep sowing the high-yielding seeds of the word of God. This is the GOOD news of today’s gospel for all of us, tenant farmers.
Fear and Sadness
Did you ever have a bad weekend? Just think what kind of weekend the apostles had on that first Easter weekend. They must have been suffering from a severe dose of depression since Good Friday. Jesus was dead. The crowd that welcomed Jesus with palms as he entered Jerusalem turned against him on Good Friday morning calling for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. The apostles, now afraid of the crowd, had shut themselves in for their own protection as we heard in the Gospel (John 20.19). There were ten of them gathered in this state; Judas was no more and Thomas was temporarily absent. Jesus came with his healing, “Peace be with you.” (John 20.19) And how much peace they must have felt within now! As well as shock and doubts. But this meeting with the risen Jesus certainly brought peace to their troubled minds and hearts. That was Easter Sunday evening; the crisis was over, but what a long three days it had been since Friday morning.
Thomas comes back then and they tell him Jesus is alive, they have seen him. Jesus came in even though the doors were all closed. Thomas thinks this is adding insult to injury. You can imagine what he would have said to them. “You saw his body when it was taken down from the cross. You know he was not breathing. You know there was no blood left in his body, you know his heart had been pierced with the soldier’s lance. You are all raving. It’s getting to you. Get a grip on yourselves!” We heard in our Gospel that Thomas demanded proof, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” (John 20.25)
What has happened now? Now there is division among the apostles. Ten know Jesus is alive. The eleventh, Thomas, is stubborn and refuses to believe. Thomas does not have faith yet and he is relying on reason alone but when Thomas will see Jesus in a week he will believe and faith and reason will be perfectly aligned in Thomas. The division among the apostles is like the division in any family between those who have faith and reason in perfect harmony and those whose faith and reason are out. Those with faith and reason in life try to help the others to come to greater faith in Jesus. And they get a negative response from a modern day Thomas who might say something like, “If you force me I won’t go to Mass.” And Thomas, ancient or contemporary, remains in his sad state. If Thomas had been sensitive enough he would surely have noticed that the ten have great peace now, they are not the same as when he left earlier. But Thomas, ancient and modern, considers himself a big, strong, macho man. He has no time for what he thinks is silly sissy stuff. He wants a scientific proof for God and fails to realize that there does not have to be any conflict between faith and science, or between faith and reason. Thomas has yet to learn that faith and reason/logic/science are meant to be in harmony. The following Sunday Jesus came again even though the doors were closed. Again Jesus wished them peace and provided Thomas with the proof that his reason and logic and desire for a scientific answer needed, “Put your finger here: look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” (John 20.27) Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20.28) Now faith and reason are perfectly aligned in Thomas, faith and science are in synchronization and Thomas has seen Jesus.
Growth in Faith
Relying only on reason and logic and science alone had closed Thomas’ mind to Jesus’ resurrection. His independence, his pride, his wish to be master of his own life, wanting control of his own destiny instead of allowing faith to be in harmony with reason meant that he wasted a week. He shut Jesus out of his life for one week. All it takes to meet Jesus is to allow our reason/logic to work together with our faith. So let us make that act of faith in God. Surrender into the hands of a loving God. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
A beautiful chant about trust in God goes like this, “Trust, surrender, believe, receive.” The last word is “receive.” If you trust, surrender and believe, you will receive. When Thomas saw the risen Jesus on the Sunday after Easter Sunday, he trusted, surrendered and believed. Then he received Jesus. It is the same with each of us. Trust in Jesus, surrender, believe, and you will receive a joy that you will not get from anything or anybody else.
Happiness in God
Remember what I have said to you previously, if you are not happy it is because you have gone away from God. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. God has adopted you as his son or daughter and our second reading today began, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God.” (1John 5.1) It is most wonderful privilege. Thomas had wasted a week. Let us not waste a lifetime. If you haven’t yet met the risen Jesus, roll away the stone and meet Jesus. Allow faith to work together in harmony with your reason and logic. Trust, surrender, believe, receive and you will be happy for ever.
We need to break out of our tombs. Jesus teaches us that we need to die in order to live. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains single. We notice death everyday in our own bodies as they become old and tired. But when we live by the Spirit of Christ Resurrected we also notice that it is being resurrected again and again through him.
Rudolf V. D’Souza
Vancouver - Canada