Open to the Spirit


Open to the Spirit

April 29, 2014 | HNMWebmaster | Courage, Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Easter, Homilies, St. John

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
April 27, 2014 – Year A

Readings:  Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 118, 1 Pt 1:3-9, Jn 20:19-31
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

Today, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the church emphasizes the unimaginable mercy of our loving God. In the first reading from The Acts of the Apostles, we get a little glimpse of the communal life of the brand-new Church. It’s a picture of hope and love. In the Psalm we sang “God’s mercy endures forever!” “The Lord of love and mercy has brought wonder to our eyes.” In the second reading, we heard “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope…”

In the Gospel, however, the message of God’s mercy is not so clearly visible. The story centers around the apostle Thomas. He is known by several names. He is also called Didymus, which is Greek for “the twin,” but he is more commonly know as Doubting Thomas – a name that has always seemed a little unfair to me. If we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us are forced to admit that we might have reacted just like he did if we had been in his place.

After all, the other apostles had not really proven themselves to be completely reliable, had they? Let’s review a few of the facts:

We don’t know the background of all of them, but Matthew had been a tax collector, a collaborator with the enemy, before he began following Jesus.
On at least one occasion, Jesus had to call them out because they were arguing about who was the greatest.
On the night that Jesus was arrested, while he was agonizing over his imminent death, they kept falling asleep.
Judas sold Jesus to the authorities for a bag of money.
When Jesus was arrested, most of them ran away and hid.
Peter, their leader, denied even knowing Jesus.

The list of shortcomings and inadequacies of the apostles is long, so can we really fault Thomas for his skepticism? Seems quite reasonable to me.

Luckily, for the apostles and for us, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” He works with whatever we have. In His mercy, He overlooks the shortcomings and failures in all of us, and by the power of the Spirit, fills up what is lacking. He fills up the holes and smoothes the rough edges. He does this, not because we have earned or deserve it, but because He loves us.

Throughout history, God has shown his mercy by meeting people where they are. He takes ordinary people and uses them to do great things.
Most of the first disciples were uneducated, simple folk.
St. Paul made it his mission to destroy the first Christians but he later became their greatest missionary.
St. Augustine was a wild young man, but later became a priest, bishop and one of the greatest Christian minds in history.

God will do the same thing for all of us.

Earlier today in Rome, Pope Francis celebrated the canonization of our two newest saints, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Both of these men are shining examples of God leading people from humble beginnings to greatness.

John XXIII was born to a poor Italian farming family. He was a humble man know for his great sense of humor. Speaking of his childhood he once said: “Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways: women, gambling, and farming. My family chose the slowest one.” He was short, plump, bald with large ears and he jumped at every opportunity to make fun of his own appearance. But he was also a man of great compassion. While serving the Church in Turkey during World War II, he helped thousands of Jews flee the Nazis into Palestine – even forging baptismal certificates. His efforts earned him the title of Righteous Gentile.

He was elected Pope in 1958 because the cardinal electors thought he would be a caretaker who would not rock the boat. Well, the Holy Spirit had other ideas. Good Pope John called the Second Vatican Council. In fact, true to his character, when a Vatican official told him that it was impossible to begin the Council in 1963, he replied, “Fine. We will begin it in 1962.”

John Paul II was the youngest of three children and by the time he was twenty, his entire family had died. Rather than falling into despair in Nazi-occupied Poland, he began studying for the priesthood in secret. He served as a priest, bishop and cardinal in communist Poland.
In 1978, he was elected Pope as a compromise candidate after the first initial candidates faced too much opposition to be elected. He served the Church as Pope for over 25 years and his effect has been deep and far reaching. Two of his great legacies are his outreach to youth, especially through World Youth Day, and his great Theology of the Body.

Greatness in the Kingdom of God is not about status in life but about our openness to the Spirit. While it is natural to have doubts like Thomas, we need to move past them and shout, “My Lord and my God.” It’s less about our natural abilities and more about our reliance on God. We need to place ourselves in His hands and trust in his providence. In the words of Saint John the XXIII:

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

If we open our hearts to God and we accept his love and mercy, we too will become saints.

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