Sunday, April 8, 2018

Trust Me

   Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy   B 

What did Thomas doubt? Most of us would say he doubted the promise of Jesus: he doubted the truth of the Resurrection.  But look a little more closely at the gospel story, and you realize that what Thomas really doubted was the word and good intentions of his brothers.  “You say you saw Jesus?  Well, I don’t believe you!  And I won’t believe you unless I can see him with my own two eyes—no, unless I can touch him with my own two hands.”

You see, if Thomas can’t trust his brothers who are right there in the same room with him, then how could he believe in a risen Jesus whom he does not see?

There’s someone you haven’t seen for the last several weeks, and that’s Fr. Scott.  Many of you, no doubt, have already read his letter in your bulletin.  I assure you that he is OK.  But he’s going to be away for a while—how long we don’t know—in order to give some focused attention to his health.  He’s right where he needs to be right now.  And he appreciates your prayers.  And I can’t repeat often enough: he’s not thinking about leaving the priesthood!

In the meantime, Fr. Justin Thomas will be returning to St. André’s to help on weekends during April and May.  I’m sure you’ll give him a warm welcome back.

Those are the facts. Why are you only hearing them now? For a few reasons.  There was a chance that Fr. Scott was going to be back already.  Holy Week and Easter aren’t exactly the best time to discuss these sorts of matters.  And it takes a while to work out all the details.

Some of you have reached out to me lately, asking about Fr. Scott out of genuine concern for him. That is exactly the right response.  And that’s why, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, we’re putting together a “spiritual bouquet” to send him.  As you leave this Mass, you’ll find tables near the church doors where you’ll receive a small paper heart.  We’re asking you to put more than well wishes on it; we’re asking you to take action.  Maybe, for example, you can commit to saying the Rosary—once, or every day for a week, or once a week until Fr. Scott returns. Or you can offer your Holy Communion for his intentions.  Or you can make a Holy Hour.  Or you can do some work of mercy.  All those hearts from St. André’s will be collected in a big jar and sent to Fr. Scott.  Take some time before the end of Mass to consider what you or your family can do.

While some have been concerned, others—sad to say—have decided to fill the gaps with rumors and accusations.  “Something must be done before Fr. Joe is allowed to drive yet another young priest away!” I’ve got to say: that really, really hurts.  Right now, I’m not only missing a truly devoted and dutiful coworker at a very busy and challenging time, but my heart is aching in the absence of one of my nearest and dearest friends.

There are three things I ask of you as your parish priest:

(1) If you have questions—about anything going on in the parish—please come to me, to the one who’s most likely to have the answers, rather than take them out into the streets. I can’t always share everything, but I’ll tell you what I’m able.  Speculation and rumors are terribly destructive things.  We have feelings, too! Like you, scratch us and we bleed.

(2) Please respect our privacy, just as you rightly expect us to respect yours.  We live a lot of our lives in the public eye, I know, but there are some personal things we want and need to keep personal.  Thanks for understanding that.

(3) Trust us. This is where Thomas comes in—doubting the word and good intentions of his brothers.  Our society’s default position these days is one of accusation and suspicion.  In this, we Christians are supposed to be different from all the rest.  

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the first believers “had everything in common,” selling their houses and property, entrusting all their wealth to be distributed by the apostles.   Wow! That’s a huge level of commitment, right?  But that passage begins by telling us something even more remarkable: “the community of believers was of one heart and mind.”

The Church is headed for self-destruction if we think and act as if things are a matter of priests versus people.  We’re all on the same team.  Yes, there have been some bad actors among the clergy, and that has understandably weakened people’s confidence in the Church.  But that’s not all priests; it’s not even the majority of us. Really—we’re not such bad guys! I hope you can give us the benefit of the doubt.

Where does Jesus find those ten disciples on that first Easter night?  Locked up together in a room.  Why?  Because they’re afraid.  And what are they scared of?  That they might have to do what Jesus did.  That God might ask them, too, to suffer.  That God might call them to sacrifice.

And how does the risen Jesus greet them?  “Peace be with you.”  The perfect greeting for a room full of terrified grown men!  Then he does something unusual before he repeats those same words again: he shows them the wounds in his hands and side.  

We generally assume that’s to give them proof that it’s really him.  But maybe it’s to reassure them in a far more profound way.

Maybe it’s to say, “See—I’ve suffered.  I’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.  And I’m OK.  And you’ll be OK, too. There’s no need to be afraid. You can do it.  I’ve gone before you, and I’ve got your back. Locked doors cannot stop me. I will be with you always. I will never abandon or forsake you.  Let me breathe new life into your frightened hearts.  Receive the Holy Spirit to be your courage and your strength.  Sure, you’ll be wounded, too.  You will suffer— even sometimes at the hands of one another.  Like me, the Father is calling you to sacrifice.  But you can do things that you thought would hurt way too much.  And you can let go of things you thought you just couldn’t ever do without.  So, trust me.  Be at peace.  It’s by these wounds—not in spite of them—that I’ve won the victory.  Now you go, and conquer the world!”

Every image of the Divine Mercy depicts Jesus at this very moment, inviting us to experience it for ourselves.  And every copy includes at the bottom the deceptively simple prayer that we can’t repeat often enough: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Let us pray.

Risen Jesus, wounded for love of us, in your infinite mercy, in good times and bad, both when life is serene and when we suffer, increase our trust: increase our trust in you; increase our trust in each other.  Amen.

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