Thank you to Fr Brendan Grady who has shared his reflection with us today. Fr Brendan is the Chaplain for the Shrine, plus Parish Priest and Prior.
As we each do our best to live within the necessary restrictions that the current situation demands of us as responsible and caring people, there seems to be among many a real renewed appreciation of our need for one another. We are so filled with gratitude, especially expressed on Thursday evenings when many join in clapping for our dedicated NHS and other key staff, as we recognise the tremendous generosity, selflessness and sacrifices that are being offered for the common good.
We acknowledge that at this time, even though for us Christians we are in the Easter season, much effort is needed to sustain our sense of balance, rhythm, inner joy and hope. If we find ourselves lacking motivation, we know we are not alone and can only do our best to be faithful to what matters most. Just like the early disciples just after the crucifixion and death of Jesus, for so many this has proven to be a “heavy” time, but perhaps we can take some little courage in knowing that eventually it will pass. Just as Jesus was raised from the tomb on the third day, so we too will rise.
During the Easter Vigil last year, Pope Francis said
'Each of us is called…to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones…Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand… Jesus is a specialist at turning our deaths into life… Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One.’
Can we use this long but temporary period to do our best to keep our inner lives nourished though prayer and reflection on the scriptures?
After the resurrection of Jesus, there seem to have been a variety of responses to the news that he is transformed, risen and present in a new way. In Mark’s Gospel, Mary of Magdala is the first to acknowledge with faith that he is indeed risen. In John’s Gospel, when Peter and the Beloved Disciple run to the empty tomb, Peter seems to be dumbfounded while the Beloved Disciple sees and believes. The two disciples walking to Emmaus are somehow blinded to the presence of the Risen One until he sits with them and breaks bread. And Thomas… He wasn’t with the other disciples, including Jude, when Jesus appeared to them and finds great difficulty in believing simply because of their word. He must see, reach out and touch the wounded yet transformed person of Jesus to come to faith. The officials of the Jewish religion try to stop Peter and the others proclaiming this astonishing news.
As we reflect on the different reactions and the ways in which the early Christians come to encounter the Risen Christ, we may be drawn to reflect on how we ourselves have arrived at the point of having a deepening relationship with this Lord of life and communicator of hope.
Perhaps I was fortunate, or perhaps things were made easy for me, by being raised in a family where the teaching of Jesus and the practice of faith went unquestioned. Prayer, participation at Mass and the other sacraments, engaging with different aspects of the Church’s mission and ministries were taken for granted. Until…. Well, until I myself began to delve more deeply into what had been passed onto me. I came to a moment when I was no longer content simply to accept everything blindly. Although there has always been something of a rebellious spirit in me, neither was it enough for me merely to reject what I had been taught and shown. I felt the urge to understand and to assimilate, interiorise and integrate it for myself. I wouldn’t talk in terms of conversion, for that can be radical for many people. Rather, my eyes and heart were being opened to a deeper mystery that called for an acceptance in faith that would begin a very different journey, yet one that has already had a certain direction set.
Now, years later, as a committed Christian, as a most willing disciple of Jesus, as a Carmelite friar and as a still-developing human person, I find myself re-interpreting my life story. I am tremendously grateful for the foundations that my parents, sister, brother and others laid for me; I rejoice at the good teachers I had who enabled me to question without arbitrarily dismissing the most important things that have become central in my life. I offer gratitude to God for divine patience, relentless calling and amazing forgiveness and compassion.
Was I a “doubting Thomas”? He needed evidence. He needed a personal encounter. He needed an opportunity to have a love that had been crushed in his life with the death of Jesus to be resurrected and transformed. He needed the Wounded Healer. As I look back, I can trace key moments when God most certainly seemed to be at work, gently beckoning, persistently pursuing and constantly stirring my searching heart. I can see the development of my understanding of the scriptures, the gentle and sometimes earthquake-like moments of prayer, the shining and heroic examples of dedication, especially to those who are suffering or on the fringes of our normal experience, of people whose energy and compassion reflect a divine empathy that transforms not only themselves but those around and beyond them.
Perhaps we can spend some time during this Easter period calling upon God to shake up our taken-for-granted faith and our doubt in the midst of convincing lived testimony. Perhaps we can ask God to grant us the missionary zeal of an apostle like St. Jude and the perceptive contemplative glance of the Beloved Disciple.
• As we look back at our own personal history, how has our individual and personal faith been tested, purified and deepened?
• How might we describe our relationship with the Risen Christ?
• Where do we need to invite God to transform our unbelief into trusting belief and faith?
Let us pray..
God of light, shattering the darkness and removing fear,
we offer thanks for the tremendous joy of coming to know Jesus.
We thank you for all who have
formed us in his Way,
led us in his Truth
and shared with us his Life.
With St. Thomas, may we call out: “My Lord and my God”.
With St. Jude, may we become beacons of hope for others.
With the Risen Christ,
and fired by his transforming Spirit,
may we become agents of transformation
in our families, our society and our world.
St. Jude, pray for us.
St. Thomas, pray for us.
Keep safe, keep well, keep praying… and keep sane!