A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 19)

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A – April 3, 2005

 

“Do Not Be Unbelieving, But Believe”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:42-47 // I Pet 1:3-9 // Jn 20:19-31

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

In 1967 my Father was subjected to a second exploratory operation by a new medical team in another hospital. The biopsy confirmed their diagnosis. They told my Father that he had tuberculosis of the liver and, contrary to the findings of the previous medical team, he did not have cancer. With proper medication, his T.B. could be cured. Our family gratefully received the good news and rejoiced in what we felt was God’s miraculous intervention. We thanked the Lord God who had heard our prayers. He rescued my father from imminent death. After a week, my Father was discharged from the hospital and came home. For many weeks, however, the dreadful jaundiced eyes, the deathly pallor of the skin, and the horrible itchiness that covered him from head to foot persisted. One afternoon when I was massaging his head with some Japanese herbal tonic to attenuate his discomfort, he blurted out sadly: “Please pray for me. I am very tired. I doubt that I will ever get well.” The specter of vicious cancer had cast a pall of doom upon him once again. The doctors’ prognosis seemed too good to be true. He started to feel incredulous with regards to the prospect of complete healing. He was overwhelmed with fear and anguish similar to those experienced by the Christian disciples on Good Friday. I tried to strengthen my dear Father for, clutched by the virulence of his illness, he was slowly negating the promise of hope offered to him by the medical team. With God’s grace, however, I was able to utter some words of encouragement. With conviction, I assured him: “It will take time, but you will get well.” Soon after that, my Father started to respond to the medication. He recovered completely from T.B. God had given him 30 more years of grace-filled life. On August 31, 1997, surrounded by his loving family members, my Father passed to eternal life.

 

Indeed, the disciples who have experienced the gloom, anguish and sadness of Good Friday were incredulous to the reality of Easter glory. The good news of Easter seemed too good to be true to the Christian disciples. Astonishment was their immediate reaction to the Easter event. St. Cyril of Alexandria, in his commentary on John’s Gospel, explains: “Only Thomas is reported to have said: Unless my hands touch the marks of the nails and I see them, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe; yet to some extent all the disciples were guilty of disbelief … It was their very astonishment that made them slow to believe.” The Risen Lord, however, accommodated himself to their astonishment. By his Easter appearances and loving presence, the glorified Jesus awakened his disciples’ faith. He gently led them from incredulity and perplexity to true recognition and faith.

 

The Augustinian monk and scientist, Gregor Mendel, the discoverer of the laws of heredity, reflects on Jesus’ compassionate act of making his disciples come to terms with the Easter event: “For forty days Jesus reveals his new life in the most wonderful appearances and proofs of his presence. He manifests the sublime existence of one who is glorified, who is exalted above this world. But at the same time he deals with his disciples in so simple and intimate a way that they soon lose all fear and in turn deal very familiarly with him. He appears to individuals and groups, he speaks with them, eats with them, urges them to be convinced of the reality of his resurrection. Each of these many appearances of the Risen Lord contains a wealth of instruction, edification, and consolation for all times … He uses his wounds as marks by which he may be recognized. He points to his hands, feet, side … By his sufferings, by his wounds is the Savior to be recognized. Signs of love, signs that last forever.”

 

Today’s Gospel passage (Jn 20:19-31) delineates in a special way the faith experience of Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, who was not with them when Jesus came on the evening of that first day of the week, the day of resurrection. The Risen Lord accommodated himself to Thomas’ doubts by inviting him: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20:27). The “doubting” Thomas responded to the magnanimous benevolence and glorious presence of Jesus with a marvelous confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

 

Harold Buetow comments on this poignant and beautiful Easter scene: “Through the suspenseful contrasts of fear and peace, doubt and faith, and seeing and believing, the climactic moment arrived when Thomas came and believed as strongly as he had disbelieved. Overcome, Thomas the “doubter”, the “one to believe”, was given the outstanding grace by the Risen Lord to turn unbelief on its head, to make the most complete affirmation of Christ’s nature to be found in anyone in the Gospels, and to proclaim the truth of Christ for all generations to come. Using two Older Covenant titles of God, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (v. 28). Thomas applied them to Jesus. In that moment of the triumph of faith over unbelief Jesus remembered each one of us with his beatitude, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (v. 29).”

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3, explicate: “Thomas’ character is of particular importance for us. He appears at the hinge between two generations of believers. He belongs to the group of the chosen witnesses (Acts 10:41) who saw the Risen One and to those who, throughout the ages, have received the faith that comes from the apostles, appropriating it for himself. Like the other first witnesses, Thomas had to pass from doubt to belief. His special experience, reported by the evangelist, reinforces, so to speak, the apostolic witness … “Do not be unbelieving, but believe” is more of an exhortation than a reproach, and the Lord addresses it to each of us. Moreover, John concludes this passage and his whole Gospel by declaring: “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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (v. 30-31) … Thomas, like the other apostles, believed in the one he saw. We believe without having seen. But the testimony of the Scriptures has been given to us, along with that of witnesses who were “slow of heart o believe” (Lk 24:25), who in their panic and fright “thought they were seeing a ghost” (Lk 24:37). Yes, happy are we who can say, like Thomas when he believed: “My Lord and my God!” For, if we believe that Christ is living, it is not only because reliable witnesses have seen; however important, indeed essential, their witness may be, what is more crucial is the personal acknowledgment of the Risen Lord, an act that transcends all proofs, all logic.”

 

Faith in the Risen Lord is a gift, impossible without God’s gracious giving, as well as a response to God’s self-revealing. Faith in its fullness is the total response of the person: mind, heart and will. Walter Burghardt concludes: “Thomas’ cry is a doxology; I mean a paean of praise, of adoration. It was a yes to his Lord, a total gift of himself to his God. Your faith, like Thomas’ faith, is a living faith when “My Lord and my God” is the flaming response of your whole being to the Risen Jesus present before you, around you, within you; when it means “I love you, Lord, with every fiber of my flesh, every stirring of my spirit.” And that, my friends, is an experience of God. Not a vision. Simply, you and God have touched.”

 

 

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART

 

 

A.     Do we allow the Easter apparition to dispel the gloom and anguish of the “Good Friday” experience in our lives? Do we allow the Risen Lord to touch us with the healing power of his love?

 

 

B.     Are we like Thomas in his incredulity concerning the reality of the Lord’s resurrection and his transforming presence in our lives? When the promise of Easter glory is given to us, are we skeptical and negate it with the pessimistic stance: “It is too good to be true”?

 

 

C.     How are we instruments in making the Risen Lord’s presence real in the lives of the people around us?

 

 

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD

(Adapted from P. Claudel, Corona benignitatis anni Dei; cited by the authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3, p. 88.)

 

I am ready to believe what you say,

if only it may be certain.

I am ready to open myself completely

if you will force into this hard heart,

harder than an oak stump or firm chestnut wood,

an axe with so strong and deep a blow that it may stay there!

 

I am even ready to die,

but only if you die first

and all the passion and everything it entails be fulfilled,

and if again you will rise from the tomb and say to me: “Thomas!”

 

I am ready to believe in you, Lord, and do what you wish,

if I may for but one moment

touch the holes in your hands and feet.

 

And I will acknowledge you and call you “My Lord and my God!”

if you will let me touch you

and put my hand into your heart!

 

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“Then Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn 20:27-28)

 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION

 

A.     ACTION PLAN: Pray for those who are not responsive to the Easter event and cannot recognize the compassionate and healing presence of the Risen Lord in their lives. Be an instrument in making the joy and peace of the Risen Lord real and palpable to the people around you. Through catechesis and works of charity, enable those whose faith has waned or has been weakened to encounter anew the healing love of the Risen Lord. As the priest lifts up the consecrated bread and wine at Mass, avow your faith in the Risen Lord really present by silently exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!”

 

 

B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may participate more meaningfully in the death and rising of Christ to new life, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 19): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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