Sunday, April 8, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter

2nd Sunday of Easter 
Acts 4:32-35
Ps 118
1 Jn 5:1-6
Jn 20:19-31

When preaching on this Second Sunday of Easter it is tempting to focus on Thomas, or Doubting Thomas, as he is colloquially known.  However, focusing on Thomas--to say nothing of his putative doubt--would miss deeper meanings found in today's readings. The Gospel is not about doubt.  It is about faith, as are the other readings.    

Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith and doubt are complementary.  Faith and doubt are interdependent.  Neither could exist without the other.  Mature faith must always contend with a degree of doubt, sometimes more and sometimes not so much.  But faith, as it matures, must struggle with or pass through, periods of doubt if not angry denial. 

Many of the first readings in the Easter Season are from Acts of the Apostles, a book written by Luke the Evangelist.  While lacking the magnificent prayers of his Gospel, Acts describes the earliest days of the Church, the first gatherings of the faithful, and the first ministries of the apostles.  Acts of the Apostles is our history as a Church and as a people.  It is our spiritual genealogy.  

In the first reading we hear how "the community of believers was of one heart and mind," living in a manner that sounds almost idyllic and marked by sharing of resources. As the days go by we will learn that the ideal did not continue without problems, conflict, anger, disagreement, disaffection, and desertion. One would expect nothing else as the Church, then and now, is made up exclusively of imperfect human beings who are nonetheless loved by God.  A short term for the phenomenon is sinners.  Once we become too convinced of our fundamental goodness or rightness we are on a slippery slope to conflict.  Quite a bit of conflict marked the early Church.  At times that conflict was necessary to her development, growth, and maturation.  

The reading from the First letter of John and John's Gospel are about faith.  The second reading presents the problem that each verse could be the basis for a homily on faith.  "And the victory that conquers the world is our faith."  So it does. 

We must ask ourselves if our faith depends on signs and wonders, miracles, and prayers granted in the way we want them granted. Does our faith exist only in good times?  This of course brings up the fundamental question. What is faith? 

The Letter to the Hebrews gives a definition of faith that is unsurpassed for brevity and accuracy: “Now faith is the conviction of things not seen.”  In his Letter to the Romans Paul reminds us that “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Jesus Christ.”  That preaching of Jesus Christ does not come to us only in oral form, as it did during the Sermon on the Mount, the discourses in John’s Gospel, or Jesus' private discussions with the Twelve.  Jesus’ preaching comes to us in scripture, it comes through the tradition of the Church. It is manifest most perfectly in the Eucharist and the prayers of the Mass.  

The apostles and other disciples did not grasp the reality of Jesus’ resurrection immediately afterwards despite Jesus having foretold all that would happen.  Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at the empty tomb. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were clueless about the man who joined them during their sad walk, recognizing Jesus only in the breaking of the bread.  Today's Gospel tempts us to use Thomas as an exampleagainst whom to compare ourselves in a self-righteous manner, as in, "Well, I never would have doubted." 

This particular Gospel passage ends with Jesus asking a question--“Have you believed because you have seen me?"--and pronouncing a blessing--"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  It is for the latter group, those who have not seen and yet believe, it is for us, that the Gospel was written.  

The gospels were not meant to be--and most decidedly are not-- albums of verbal snapshots. They were not meant to depict and record every episode from Jesus' life.  There are not video clips anywhere.  The gospels are not a log-book that traces Jesus daily movements nor are they a diary of Jesus’ day-to-day thoughts.  The gospels are definitely not history in the modern understanding of the word.   Any attempt to read the gospels through the lens of modern historiography, any attempt to limn the "historical Jesus," is doomed to failure.  We can never interpret the gospels in the light of the modern concept of journalism--whatever journalism means today--without frustration and ultimate faithlessness.  The less said about "Historical Biblical Novels" such as The DaVinci Code the better.  One learns little about Jesus from these sad self-aggrandizing attempts but a great deal about the writer.  The current embarrassing and appalling so-called theologian at the College of the Holy Cross is a useful illustration. 

The last sentences of today's Gospel puts all the fatuous attempts to reconstruct some sort of historical Jesus according to modern norms and desires into perspective. “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.” 

The Gospel proclaims one essential truth: that Jesus of Nazareth of whom it speaks is the Lord. Thus, the complete fullness of Easter joy is contained in Thomas’ startled, doubt-free, faith-filled, and ultimately joyous proclamation:  "My Lord and My God." 

That one essential truth is why we too can gaze upon the Body and Blood of Christ present on this altar and say, “My Lord and My God.”  

"Give thanks to the Lord, 
for He is good, 
His love is everlasting."

Some photos from Holy Week at the Abbey.  Was staying in a different house than usual along with another priest.  Great house with many photographic opportunities.  Built sometime in the 1800s but I don't know when.   This is the kind of setting made for black and white conversion.  One of the great things with digital photography is the ability to shoot in color and convert into black and white.  As I shoot almost exclusively in RAW, resulting in very large files and no loss of data, all the photos are in color.  However, upon clicking the black and white option in processing and then playing with light, shadow, and filters, the results are very good.  I love black and white photography and looking and black and white photos.  Without the distraction of color one can focus on other characteristics such as the interplay of light and shadow, shape, texture, and other attributes of the photo.  Another advantage is that in certain conditions, and this house had them, it is easier to work with black and white than color.  Any manipulations to the color versions results in some unnatural looks to the furniture.  The various lighting sources play a major role.  

The time at the Abbey was deeply consoling though also physically exhausting.  I celebrated Palm Sunday and the Triduum, and concelebrated the other Masses.  The traffic home was not too bad but was getting very heavy.  Having given up alcohol for Lent I drove directly to the Jesuit residence, grabbed a sandwich and two beers.  I needed nothing more for the afternoon.  

The main room of the house.  The floors are wide-plank.  There is a fireplace.  As I don't do fires on the hearth it stayed cold and I wore an extra sweatshirt of two.  

Shot this through the music stand of the piano. 

Who of my generation could look at the guts of a piano and not be reminded of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoon featuring Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2? 

A very comfortable chair for morning and evening meditation. 

The interplay of light, shadow, shape and texture drew me to this.  It is also the kind of photo that a non-photographer companion might find inexplicable as in "Why in the hell are you taking a dozen pictures of THAT?"

The entrance to the farmhouse.  I posted this on a photography site.  At least two members who responded named it the freezer door.  It is the back door to the house. 

 Two studies of light.  The first is the paschal candle, all fifteen pounds of it, in the sacristy at the church awaiting the blessing and lighting at the Saturday vigil.  The second is three sources of light in the house: the small clip-on halogen nightlight seen only in its light, the candle and the kerosene lamp.  

The sheer curtains in my bathroom.  It had a free-standing claw-foot tub.  I've seen people go nuts over claw-foot tubs, screeching how badly one is needed for the master bath.  Don't.  Getting out of them when wet and the bottom is soapy is not easy. 

Outdoors by the car and pond.  Looking straight up.  Am still trying to learn the new camera, particularly metering.  It is coming along.  Took multiple shots of this in an attempt to see what worked best.  

Have a Blessed Easter Season. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. #6 --- I like it a lot.
    I could also see its potential as a Rurschark test.

  3. Well, yes. Then again the response to must about anything is an informal Rorschach. The door does look like an old-time walk-in freezer door. Nice house though a tad drafty.

  4. Very nice Father. Happy Easter