The Gospel for April 3rd, 2016: Second Sunday of Easter
There is a story behind this reflection that demonstrates what I wish to share about this reading: Jesus is found through His Church. In the beginning, these blogs were inspired by Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly’s suggestion that reading the gospel before Sunday is one way to prepare one’s self to encounter Jesus in the mass and combat to experience of boredom admitted by many contemporary Catholics in his research. In writing these reflections, I have hoped to model authentic, honest reading and invite conversation that prepares the way for a deeper encounter at mass in the Liturgy of the Word and in the priest’s homily. Over the last nine months of weekly blogging for this purpose, I have been amazed at how the gospel can deepen one’s understanding of and relationship with Jesus. Therefore, the act of writing has often been quite inspiring, although more time-consuming than originally anticipated. Consistently, the reading experience has felt fresh and renewing.
However, this week was different. I read this gospel of Doubting Thomas three times and felt mentally flat. True, I see myself in Thomas, who needs proof of Jesus’s presence to believe in His resurrection. But this was not a new insight, and I did not know what to say about it. I was having trouble finding what Jesus was saying to me in this gospel. After the third reading, I decided to turn to my favorite online ministry, Word on Fire, and found a homily on this gospel from Bishop Robert Barron, whose books and articles I have found profoundly enriching. (It is a fascinating 15 minutes for those inclined to check it out. Click here.)
A light bulb flashed on for me in Barron’s sermon with this observation: Thomas’s absence from the gathering of the disciplines led to his missing an encounter with the risen Jesus; and consequently, he is then in a position of having to take their word of Christ’s presence. Barron points out that we are a community of believers as a Church, and Christ comes to us when we gather in His name. The modern notion of having a personal relationship with Jesus without His Church does not work. Like Thomas, we are missing spending time with Him if we do not participate in the life of His Church. Over time the relationship falters due to a lack of contact. We become doubters. For an introvert like me with an anti-social streak, this is necessary counsel. If I wish to have life in Jesus, I need to gather with other Christians in the many places the Church lives. This is not only at mass, but also in the many ministries where the Church carries out its missions of evangelization, stewardship, and service. We spend quality time with Jesus in these endeavors. We know His love and our faith is renewed.
In listening to the homily, I realized I had turned to the Church in my moment of need by going to the Word of Fire online ministry to help me find new meaning in the gospel. Instead of trying to going it alone, I went to a place where Christians gather. Granted, it is not a building with a cross, but that is precisely the point. Christ’s Church is not confined to any building; it is our community that makes up His body. This community extends to Heaven in the eternal lives of the saints and is available everywhere if we seek to serve God and be guided by the Holy Spirit. I find this a source of infinite hope and life-changing.