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Mass with President's Society and Alumni

Homily for the second Sunday of Easter


Celebrant: Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B.
7 April 2013

The reality of the resurrection of Jesus is just too great for a single day's celebration.  And so, for the past week, every time we have prayed the introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer, the celebrant has said "on this Day... when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed", indicating that we are in a sort of suspended and extended time of the Easter feast, drawn out for eight days as if it were one. So today we come to the octave day, which we call, not the Sunday AFTER Easter, but the second Sunday OF Easter.  It is the day when another of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus is recalled, a week after that first day of the week that sent all the disciples into confusion and fear.  This time, however, the apostle Thomas was present -- Thomas who had until now not seen the risen Lord, and so had refused to believe.

All the disciples except Thomas had seen the risen Lord Jesus on the evening of that first day of the week.  All of them had had their hopes restored in the life that Jesus had come to give - all but Thomas because he had not seen him, he had not probed the nail holes in his hand and the wound in his side.  Now a week later, Thomas was there; and Jesus patiently invited him to do what he had said he must do before he would believe.  But Jesus also made the important point that eventually all who believe in him could not rely on his physical presence or this kind of empirical investigation of the reality of his risen body.

No, if Jesus is to accomplish what he came to do, the believer needs to know where to look; needs to know the right place to look.  And where can one who has not seen look to find the Lord?

When I was a very young monk, I must have been complaining about some little task I was given wondering whether this was a reason for me to be in the monastery.  My wise novicemaster, Bishop Joseph, gently but directly silenced my wondering with this little story about Saint Theresa of Avila:

One day a young sister complained to Saint Theresa that she had come to the convent to pray and seek God and that she had to spend, in her opinion, far too much time on the tasks of the kitchen rather than praying in Church. The wise Saint Theresa replied, "My dear sister, if you cannot recognize and find the Lord among the pots and pans, you will never find Him in the Church." 

Whether the story is true or not, the point is one that has stuck with me through life:  We find the Lord where he chooses to show himself, not where we would imagine he should show himself.  It is in the ordinary places, events, and people of our life where we are called to find the Lord.  It is among the "pots and pans" of our own life that we need to look.

I think the message is a simple one:  yes, we can find the Lord Jesus here in this magnificent Church and it is among the privileged places for that encounter with the risen Lord.  But, and here is the point, we cannot limit our engagement with the Lord to this place or our liturgical life.  No, what Jesus was trying to show his disciples after his resurrection, that nothing could stand between him and his followers: no locked doors, no doubts, no fears, no conditions.  We are the ones - not Jesus - we are the ones who lock the doors, who hold on to fear and prejudice and hurt, we are the ones who set up conditions for our belief.  We are the ones - not Jesus - who say that we must see in order to believe.  We are the ones - not Jesus - who say that we can't find him in the messiness of our lives, with our own problems and concerns.  We are the ones - not Jesus - who are tempted to think that the "pots and pans" of our lives surely are outside our ability to find him.

But Jesus pointed to those who whom he had commissioned to continue his work of redemption - to the community of believers who were united in one mind and one heart.  It was there, in that community of believers, that Thomas could have found the Lord he sought.  It is there that we must find the Lord we seek.

Though we have not seen him, we the Church of Christ in the year 2013, we still marvel -- as his first disciples did at what has taken place: that Jesus is risen as he promised.  But unlike those disciples who gathered behind locked doors, we can gather without fear or confusion; we, with Easter joy that seems hardly confinable, sing over and over again: The Lord is risen, alleluia.  We know and we proclaim to one another that here in our midst is the risen Lord; that here in the faces of those with whom we walk this journey of faith, here is where we find the clear evidence of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

We have an enormous responsibility in this regard.  We may think that we need only to pay attention our own relationship with the Lord, but that would be quite mistaken.  We are for one another the witnesses to saving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus - the clearly visible signs of his forgiveness and love for every man and woman on earth.  And we are not just these signs for one another here today.  We are the testimony of Jesus for our world.

When men and women ask if the resurrection is real, if Jesus is indeed the Lord of all creation, it is to us that they should be able to look for the answer.  We ought to be where people look to find the Lord.  We ought to be that right place to look by the way we live and love, by the way we bring the life and teaching of Christ to our world.

How sad it would be if someone we knew said at the end of his or her life, I never found the Lord Jesus because no one could show me the way.  My brothers and sisters, let's not let that happen.  Rather, may every person we meet find in us the Lord of life who saves them, may they see in us the Easter victory that is his - and that in him victory is ours.