Immaculate Conception and St. Dominic, Stone

 

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Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter)

A big thankyou to you for remembering my Easter Offering in these difficult circumstances. Your kind cards and enclosed gifts were very welcome. Priests live by the kindness of their people and your thoughtfulness will keep the wolf from the presbytery door.

I remember as a teenager Colin Blunstone singing ”I don’t believe in miracles”. I remember I liked the tune but felt the song was spoiled by the line in question. As a Catholic I did believe in miracles and have done so since my youngest days. It was as a child I saw with my own eyes God’s miraculous power. My brother Joe had been in hospital for several months and was sent home to die with kidney failure. No more could be done for him. Mom would often put her arm around one of us when she prayed and I witnessed my mom’s prayers in tears on her knees interceding to Jesus and His Blessed Mother Mary for her son Joseph. It was then that we, as a family, witnessed a miracle. One day, Joe asked to be carried to Mass. We all thought he was delirious. Yet somehow we bundled Joe in his emaciated condition to Mass and from that time he recovered. It simply had to be the prayer of my mom in her deep lamentation to God for her first born child. I was there and I have never doubted God’s miraculous power since – never. Recently, I was told by a parishioner she was doing a crossword and came to the word supernatural. She was taken aback by the clue which said unreal. I’m afraid that is how many in the world view the supernatural, the spiritual, that it is unreal, non-existent, more of superstition than reality.

As I write, those with faith are praying for a miracle and those without faith are hoping for one. We Christians who have faith, we believe that God is all powerful and can intervene in the human situation with His Divine Power. The Lord’s enemies in the Gospel never doubted His miracles they just questioned His purpose, power and motives in doing them. Jesus calmed the stormy sea, He changed water into wine, raised the dead, cured the incurable, fed multitudes from a few loaves and fish, and caused a miraculous catch of fish where fishermen had previously fruitlessly laboured. This Holy Easter time we celebrate the greatest miracle of all: the Lord’s rising from the dead, not by way of mere resuscitation but to eternal life. This for us is our central miracle, the hub from which the spokes of God’s continuing miraculous acts flow. For us as Catholics, these spokes are our sacraments, particularly: the miracle of the Holy Mass where bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus; and the sacrament of Penance, where God’s mercy liberates us from sin and our spiritual burdens. This sacrament of God’s Peace was given in our Gospel today when Jesus conferred upon His apostles the power to absolve all sin and heal the broken in spirit. I remember a saintly woman once telling me that she didn’t press God for miracles, and knowing her challenging life, I was aware that she had many legitimate interventions to request of God. She said that the Holy Mass was the only miracle we needed and if we fully realized this we would put all our issues, troubles and needs in the Holy Mass and leave everything to God’s Providence. Such faith is still way ahead of mine; I would love my faith to catch up with hers.

When it comes to the resurrection, Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that for those who have no faith, no explanation is possible, for those with faith, no explanation is needed. In John’s account of the disciples in the upper room, Thomas had his issues of doubt and asked for greater proof than the testimony of his friends that Jesus had indeed risen. Thomas is not to be blamed or to be seen as of having lesser faith than the others. Thomas is the patron saint of all faith people who simply need reassurance. For us as a people who do believe in miracles we have a duty to confidently lead others to the liberating belief God’s miraculous love bestows. I believe the world doesn’t want explanation of miracles, they do want to meet conviction in those that do believe. People don’t need to put their fingers into God’s wounded side. They just want reassurance that humanity is not left defenceless in the face of tragedy. That a greater power which is God’s Divine Love is watching over us, a power that has been displayed in the past and is with us in the present. We are the Church in the world. We are a leaven of absolute trust in God’s Providence. We are the tangible signs in our homes, on our streets and in our contacts and conversations (be they mostly electronic) that all is in God’s hands. As in the storm which Jesus calmed, He is in the boat with us. This in itself is reassuring.

Where are the miraculous signs? I focus on one: I see hope as a miracle. The world needs hope. A resilient hope. We have a hope stronger than the world’s objections. People who believe in miracles are eternal optimists. For Easter People, our whole outlook is never one of victim, or helplessness or despair. Just a quiet confidence in God’s all-embracing love that even death cannot undermine. This is what we can bring to our anxious world. The virus is a great evil, it takes lives. Easter is the defeat of death itself. Easter gives life. The world is anxious, as were the disciples in the upper room. We see so many common elements to our present situation. The upper room is a group of people filled with a paralysing fear of what may come in the door to harm them. This fear has caused them to withdraw and seal themselves in to a self-imposed isolation. They have taken all possible precautions by securing the windows and locking the door. They fear that those who took Jesus’s life will come for His followers. They fear what is life taking. Just like us today. Though they are in the same room, they are no longer a community but fearful individuals hermetically sealed, no words of comfort, just a silence of despair. Self-contained and not safe. Thankfully, precautions against evil prove to be no barrier for the good action of God. The Risen Lord enters dissolving all obstacles. Jesus dispels fear with His greater presence of joy. Silence gives way to creative empowering conversation with the Lord Who is the Word. They are community once more and ready to reach out to dispel the fears beyond the upper room. The Holy Spirit is given. Their misery is past and now they have an empowered and focused ministry. They possess a divinely resourced, fit for purpose all permeating joy. Who among us doesn’t need this upper room experience? The antidote to all that is dark and threatening is Jesus’s presence. The Disciples no longer focus on their fear but upon Jesus whom they love. They now only have eyes for Him. Where faces were down cast now they look up and look forward. These are the eyes of miracle believers. While we today and tomorrow wait for the evil to pass, we focus our eyes on Jesus. If we look down, we will fall. we must just look ahead, reach for God’s hand and trust Him. The virus has drained confidence, undermined old certainties, and has caused people to question the tenuous security the world has offered to date. It needs people who believe in miracles, God’s sign and wonders to accompany it through the immediate crisis – that’s for sure. We will not fail in our duty.

Jesus brings peace to the despondent occupants of the upper room. We will talk more of this Divine peace when we celebrate Pentecost. But for now, we ask God for His peace in all our hearts. Divine peace which is a communicable positive sanctuary where all can dwell. This peace gives another view of what is outside the room where fear has placed us. The disciples no longer feel intimidated and neither should we. God bless all of you who are keeping contact with the self-isolated making sure they feel acknowledged and provided for. Such acts are a living out of the innate grace of God (acknowledged or not) in every caring person, the positive effect brought by the Risen Jesus to the upper room. The disciples will go out with their Spirit given energy and all-embracing concern focused on the task of bringing God’s love to troubled hearts.

I was only about six years old at the time of Joe’s illness and I try to revisit how my parents must have felt as they somehow got my very ill brother to Holy Mass that day. They had no car. What a sight we must have seemed to the priest and congregation many of whom were actively praying for Joe. Some parents would have reasoned with their sick child, for Joe was very ill, that he should stay in bed and the priest would come to him. No, my parents took Joe from his ‘upper room’ and he and his family attended Holy Mass. I am convinced the faith of my parents allowed God’s grace room to act and they were rewarded. You see, for my family at that time, for Joe to recover would be the miracle, but for Joe the miracle was to go to Mass. That was all Joe wanted. Joe’s desire as an ill teenager shows me that his concern was not for this life that is passing but on the life God gives which endures for eternity. He wanted to be nearer to his God of life to be in Holy Communion with Him hence he just wanted to go to Mass. Joe has had miraculous interventions on other occasions since. Attributable to his mother’s prayers from Heaven (where I am sure mom is) or due to his love of Holy Communion? Maybe both. Like Joe, I hope we don’t need to see miracles to believe, that miracle of Holy Mass is enough. As Jesus said: ‘Happy are those who have not seen, yet believe’. But we do need a trust that God’s love and life giving hold on us is greater than any threat or tribulation. Joe believed this and still does. This is a contribution we miracle believers can bring to our troubled world. The miracle will come, I am sure. For the people who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the all-embracing and definitive miracle is already here. For us, every Sunday is Easter. Aren’t we blessed. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

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