Homily for Sunday, April 27

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Have you ever heard of the “Shroud of Turin?”

It’s a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man
who appears to have suffered physical trauma
in a manner consistent with crucifixion.
It is believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus
but there’s no scientific proof for this claim.
Nor is there consensus on exactly how the image was created.

I’ve often been asked if I think how wonderful it would be
if science could authenticate that this is, indeed,
the very shroud used to wrap Jesus’ body for burial.
Wouldn’t that be just the proof we need
to convince everyone to believe in Jesus?

I’m not so sure.

Whether the shroud of Turin is authentic or not
has no bearing on my faith, one way or the other.
Should the shroud be proved to be a medieval artifact
(as some claim),
my faith in Jesus would not in the least be shaken.
And should the shroud be proved to be authentic,
my faith in Jesus would not in the least be increased.

My faith in Jesus, risen, has nothing to do with burial cloths.

It has to do with whether or not I have met the risen Christ
in my heart, in my prayer, in the scriptures, in the sacraments,
in the Church: in you.
And I have.
I have met the risen Christ in all these places.

I have not met the risen Christ as did the apostles
on that evening of that first Easter day.
I have not, like Thomas, like encountered Jesus
showing me his hands and his side.
I have not heard the risen Jesus speak to me
such that I heard him with my own ears.
Contrary to what many people think,
I do not have a “direct line to God!”

Faith in the risen Jesus was first preached to me
by Ruth and Austin Fleming, my mother and father.
They began by teaching me the story of the nativity scene
atop our TV set in our living room at Christmas
and how God’s Son Jesus was born in Bethlehem
on a beautiful silent night, long, long ago.

My faith in the risen Jesus grew as I’d see, every Sunday
at St. Mary’s Church in Danvers,
the large crucifix near the altar
and my parents would tell me the story of Jesus dying
and how he died because he loved us so much.

And my faith in the risen Jesus became more real for me
as I learned how Jesus, born in Bethlehem,
had supper with his friends on the night before he died
and that he rose from the dead to new life
and comes to me in Communion, in the sacrament of the altar.

And then I became a teenager and I struggled with my faith.
But that didn’t keep me from entering  the seminary
where I really struggled with faith for years.
And I had doubts:
I had lots and lots of doubts about God and Jesus
and I struggled with reconciling my doubts and beliefs.

And yes, there were times, yes, when, like Thomas,
I doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead.

But Jesus came to me in my heart and in my prayer.
Jesus came to me in the wisdom and truth of his word in the scriptures.
Jesus came to me over and over again in the sacraments,
especially in Communion at the table of his Last Supper.
And Jesus came to me in the ministry, and in the mission,
and in the people of the Church.
For years and years, Jesus has come to me through people just like you
and he still comes to meet me through you, the people of my parish.
And with you and through you, I believe that Jesus is risen.

And you, and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist,
and the wisdom of our tradition, and the truth of God’s Word
and the experience of finding Jesus in my heart and my prayer,
all of this is so much more real to me than any burial cloth
that may or may not have been wrapped around the body of Christ.

Neither the sacraments, nor the wisdom of the scriptures and the Church,
nor my own prayer can prove the Resurrection to me,
but in each of these, in different ways, I meet the risen Jesus
who comes to me again and again with the same message:   
 “Peace be with you…”

It’s good to know that Thomas
(someone so close to Jesus historically)
also had doubts.
But what a shame that we’ve come to know Thomas as the doubter
when, indeed, he ends up being the believer.
Anyone who seeks to believe should not be surprised by doubt –
it comes with the territory.

But let’s pray that none of us gets lost or stuck in our doubts
but that we open our minds and hearts to the all the ways
the Risen Jesus comes to meet us to strengthen our faith.
And what better place to pray for this than here,
gathered with other doubters and other believers,
listening for the wisdom and truth of the scriptures,
in the shadow of Cross of the One who died for us,
who rose for us,
and who comes to meet us, Risen, in the Bread and Cup
of the sacrament of this table.

Remember the words of Peter in the second reading today:
Although you have not seen him, you love him;
even though you do not see him now, yet you believe in him:
you rejoice in faith…
And as Jesus himself said in the gospel:
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed…

One thing I do not doubt at all is this:
Jesus comes to meet every one of us
in more ways and more often
than we know or can imagine.

Let’s pray for one another that the Spirit open our minds and hearts
and lead us from doubt to faith in the Risen Jesus
in our prayer, in the scriptures, in the sacraments, in the Church,
in the faith we share here with one another.


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