Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Jeremiah 15:10.16-21; Matthew 13:44-46)

St. Teresa of Avila, the mystic-reformer of the sixteenth century, once complained to God of the mistreatment she was experiencing. God responded, “This is how I treat my friends, Teresa.” The saint replied, “Well, then, no wonder you have so few!” Teresa echoes Jeremiah’s sentiments in the first reading today.

Jeremiah has faithfully and selflessly served the Lord. He has performed bizarre activities like extracting from the earth a rotten loincloth to impress God’s message on a hard-headed Judah. Yet the only recognition he receives is condemnation. Jeremiah’s protest sounds as if God were compensating his efforts with more suffering. The prophet laments, “You have become for me a treacherous brook whose waters do not abide!”

Although our service to the Lord will generally bring a sense of satisfaction, there is no guarantee. In fact, at times it will seem that God is putting us on trial despite our best efforts. We should not hesitate to take our complaints to the Lord; however, we must avoid rebellion. After all, each of us is a sinner before God. Rather than grumble at length, it is wise to remember prophets like Jeremiah and Theresa and return our shoulder to the load. We are not likely to suffer very much longer.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Memorial of Saint Ignatius Loyola, priest

(Jeremiah 14:22-27; Matthew 13:36-43)

The Catholic Church in the sixteenth century may be compared to Jerusalem as Jeremiah sees it in the first reading today. The revolts by Luther in Germany, Calvin and Zwingli in Switzerland, and
Henry VIII in England left the Church reeling. Ecclesiastical structures were abolished in places with Church possessions confiscated. Religious monasteries, convents and other institutions were devastated. The system may have completely broken down without the emergence of the Society of Jesus under the wise leadership of St. Ignatius Loyola whom the Church celebrates today.

Ignatius formed a body of men to respond to the challenges of the times. Their minds were acutely formed to meet Protestant intellectual critiques. Their wills were also fortified to suffer deprivation if necessary for the sake of the Church. Certainly the Jesuits more than any other religious congregation are responsible for the Church’s renewal and indeed prominence in the last five hundred years.

We recognize a Jesuit by the initials “S.J.” which stand for the “Society of Jesus.” But Jesuits themselves often refer to their fraternity as the “Company of Jesus.” This name rings of the military discipline with which St. Ignatius instilled them. But it more poignantly connotes the intimacy that each member feels with the Lord Jesus who, like many of them, gave up the glory of heaven to raise humanity from sin and death.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 13:1-11; Matthew 13:31-35)

Walking through a shopping mall, both men and women are allured by the lingerie shop. The window display arouses such interest that all wonder what can be inside. Of course, the apparel is meant to increase the intensity of desire of a husband for his wife. In the first reading today the prophet Israel uses such an image to describe the relationship between God and Israel.

The loin cloth described in the passage was to be worn by men to cover their genitals. In public the loincloth was worn under a tunic, but whether in private or in public it signifies intimacy. The prophet himself states this meaning: “As close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord.” The tragedy that Israel abandons God for the fetishes of their neighbors is symbolized by the loincloth being buried and rotting.

God has created humans as sexual beings so that they might relate to one another. Genital sexuality is reserved for a man and a woman to solidify their union as an environment for raising children and thus fulfilling God’s plan for creation. Quite unfortunately, humans often distort this blueprint by making pleasure the purpose of sexual fulfillment. Like Jeremiah‘s rotting loincloth, such practice cannot last long. We look to Jesus, who reinforces the original teaching on sexuality in Genesis, as our advisor in these affairs.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 3:14-17; Matthew 13:18-23)

In a recent television show, a detective is asked if he believes in God. He only answers that he used to but hints that he lost his faith when his wife was killed in a hit and run accident. The vignette demonstrates what Jesus means in the gospel by saying that some seed falls on rocky ground.

No one’s life is always easy. Everyone suffers setbacks and experiences limits. Yet everyone as well is beckoned to respond in faith to God’s initiatives – both the fact of having been born and, more significantly, in hearing of God’s love. Outrage over one’s lot and rebelliousness in one’s nature hinder that response. These obstacles comprise the rocky ground of the parable. Still it is not inevitable that anyone lose faith. Indeed, by telling the parable Jesus is exhorting his listeners to soften the ground of their lives by removing the rocks of rebelliousness and breaking up the clods of anger to embrace God’s love. As countless suffering people testify, God is more generous with them than they deserve.

We live in an age of disbelief. Statistics may say that the majority still believes in God, but the idea makers are predominately agnostic and the trust of many is tenuous. Now more than ever perhaps it is our responsibility as believers to testify to our faith. We can tell others how when we pray, good things happen. At the very least, prayer enables us to cope with misfortune without cursing or self-pity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Jeremiah 2: 1-3.7-8.12-13; Matthew 13:10-17)

A senior citizen tries to pass on the Catholic faith to his adolescent grandson. When the youth spends a weekend with him, he invariably takes him to Sunday mass. The youth tells him that he enjoys the experience. However, not living in a home where the faith is practiced, he has yet to express desire to commit himself to the Church. Today as we honor Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus, we may speculate on their contribution to Jesus’ faith commitment.

It may be presumed that Anne and Joachim raised Mary as a devout Jew. Unlike the people of ancient Jerusalem, whom the prophet Jeremiah decries in the first reading, Anne and Joachim taught Mary to wait upon the Lord. They instructed her not to follow the winds of the time, but to always remember how God loves His people and will save them in distress. Mary, in turn, passed on this instruction to Jesus who perfectly fulfilled God’s will with his sacrifice in obedience until death.

Catholic grandparents will, often enough, have to take on the responsibility of teaching their grandchildren the faith. Their children have often become so estranged from belief that they understand religion as no more than a set of rites to mark the passage of time. Where this is the case, grandparents need to convey the truths to grandchildren that human nature has been distorted by sin but has been redeemed by Jesus. They will hopefully show them that heeding Jesus’ words leads to happiness and embracing his company in the sacraments gives the strength to do so.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saint James, apostle

(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)

As gruesome statistics testify, women are often abused by the men in their lives. Despite the affront to human dignity, domestic violence too often goes unreported and, consequently, unaddressed. Domestic violence comprises the proverbial “elephant in the room” of which everyone is aware, but no one wants to talk about. Sometimes, however, someone breaks the stifling silence to report the crime. That person acts prophetically like, it is easy to imagine, James the Apostle whose feast we are celebrating today.

The gospel pictures James as the son of Zebedee who, along with his brother John, boldly answers that he can drink from the chalice that Jesus is about to take. The Acts of the Apostles testifies that James did indeed suffer martyrdom. In fact, it appears that he was the first of the Twelve to do so. Perhaps he spoke up boldly again when Herod Agrippa’s henchmen started looking for Jesus’ followers. In any case he gave witness to the Lord with his life.

Probably more often than we want to admit we too should speak up in Christ’s name. When we see hints of domestic violence, for example, we should at least ask questions. Giving witness to Christ is more than dying at the hands of people who hate him. It includes raising our voices, like Jesus, on behalf of the oppressed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Micah 7:14-15.18-20; Matthew 12:46-50)

As summer’s heat reaches its peak (in the northern hemisphere) with more ferocity than normal, some are asking what causes such inclement weather. An increasingly common answer is the profligate burning of fossil fuels. Curiously the response approximates that of biblical times when self-indulgence among the people was seen as the general cause of hardship. In the first reading today, the prophet Micah looks to God for deliverance.

Micah prophesized in the southern kingdom and predicted the fall of Jerusalem. In today’s passage, however, he looks beyond ruination to a time when God will forgive the sins of Israel and restore the nation to its ancient glory.

We see Micah’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus whose birthplace the prophet names in an earlier oracle. Jesus’ faithfulness on behalf of the people wins God’s forgiveness and brings about a new Israel, the Church. We, its members, are to live in a reformed way that embraces everyone in love, even future generations. Such love compels us to care for the earth so that ecological disaster may be avoided.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Micah 6:1-4.6-8; Matthew 12:38-42)

Most Christians are aware of the judgment scene toward the end of Matthew’s gospel. In the story Jesus foretells how he will come at the end of time to judge the peoples of the earth. In the reading from the prophet Micah today we find an Old Testament counterpart to that memorable scene.

God appears in the trial as both plaintiff and judge. He has a case against the people of Israel. Although He has freed them from slavery and given them His Law as their guide, they have been anything but loyal. They have ignored righteousness and, like testosterone-laden young men lusting after whores, have joined themselves to other gods. Now facing powerful enemies, they come back to God for assistance. They propose paying their indemnity with sacrifices – animals, oil stocks, or (how could they ever imagine this?) their own children. But God exacts neither blood nor material. He only pleads that Israel be just, good, and humble.

As simple as it sounds, the rectitude that God seeks is impossible for humans to accomplish. We need to be fortified with the grace of Christ if we are to walk in God’s ways. It alone will move us to selflessly feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and so enter God’s kingdom.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 38:1-6.21-22.7-8; Matthew 12:1-8)

In 1998 Pope John Paul II published an apostolic letter entitled, “The Lord’s Day.” In it he tried to awaken Catholics to the glory of reserving one day a week for prayer, family, and renewal. With this message he challenged the secularizing tendency of stretching Sunday into a weekend given to fulfilling individualistic ambitions. The letter is vintage JP II: fully human, deeply reflective, and imminently devout.

In the Gospel reading today Jesus provides his own reflection on the Sabbath. Of course, for him it is the last day of the week, not its first. As in Orthodox Jewish communities today, the Sabbath in Jesus’ time is rigorously prescribed: no cooking, no walking beyond what amounts to a kilometer, no jumping or handclapping. Jesus does not doubt the validity of these disciplines, but he does allow for exceptions. What is truly remarkable here, however, is his reserving for himself the authority to dispense with Sabbath restrictions by declaring that he is “’Lord of the Sabbath.’” As the Sabbath rest and its promise of eternal life are among God’s greatest gifts to humankind, by declaring himself its Lord Jesus once again implies that he is God!

Do we feel a twinge of remorse when we head to the mall or go to the office on Sunday? It would not be unhealthy if we did. It is not that such actions are sinful in themselves. Jesus argues for the necessity of similar deeds in critical situations. But still we should not let exceptions prevent us from giving him definite consideration every Sunday. After all, he is “Lord of the Sabbath.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 26:7-9.12.16-19; Matthew 11:28-30)

Franciscan Friar of Renewal Benedict Groeschel describes how Mother Teresa once asked him if he wanted to be more productive. Of course, he did. Then Mother Teresa told him that he should make a holy hour every day. When Fr. Benedict objected that he was too busy for that, Mother Teresa only chided him that he really did not want to do more. Fr. Benedict finally surrendered to the idea, and the outcome has been abundance in preaching, writing, and harvesting vocations. In today’s gospel Jesus offers the overworked the same option.

In the text Jesus effectively equates himself with Law. He says that where many find the 613 precepts of the Law unbearable, they will find his way a life quite refreshing. The reason for the difference is not that Jesus’ discipline is any less demanding but that it is accompanied by an inner attitude of joy. He is a joy to be around because he knows when to rest and when to work, when to laugh and when to cry.

Too often we put unnecessary burdens on ourselves. We believe that we have to become rich or important, for example. A truly happy life comes from following Jesus. It is not always an easy life, but it not only provides worthy companions to share our load but promises eternity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 10:5-7.13b-16; Mathew 11:25-27)

According to a contemporary proverb, when life deals one lemons, she is to make lemonade. It may appear Pollyannaish, but it might be said that Jesus is up to something similar in today’s gospel.

The tenor of today’s reading differs so dramatically from yesterday’s that they seem to come from different parts of the gospel if not different gospels altogether. Yet they follow one another as surely as calf and cow. In yesterday’s gospel Jesus complained that Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum will not reform despite the fact that he has shown them God’s mighty deeds. But Jesus refuses to sulk. Rather in today’s verses, that directly follow the lament on the three towns, Jesus thanks God for revealing His glory to the humble.

The passage reassures us that we do not have to be rich, schooled, or intelligent to be enlightened by God. As a matter of fact the situation is quite the contrary. When we humbly submit to God in prayer and righteousness, He will reveal to us His truth.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24)

In a painting of Blessed (soon to be Saint) Kateri Tekakwitha, the maiden grasps a cross with both hands. The work is entitled “Holding on to Faith,” perhaps because Kateri, a native American, had to flee her tribe in order to maintain the Catholic faith she had embraced. Faith further moved her to vow virginity and to dedicate herself to charitable works. It is the kind of faith that the prophet Isaiah calls for in the first reading today.

Isaiah is something of a court prophet who advises the king. Ahaz, the king of Judah, worries as his realm is besieged by two neighboring powers. Should he form an alliance to withstand the onslaught? Isaiah warns the king that politics will not save him. Instead, the prophet insists, he must trust in the Lord. As Isaiah says, “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.”

At times we may be tempted to abandon our faith for some social goal. Perhaps we would join a non-Catholic Christian community to have our children get a good education. Or maybe the temptation is to stop going to church in order to become part of an elite group of non-believers. In such situations we need to remember Isaiah’s advice. We will be strong as long as our faith is strong.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

(Isaiah 1:10-17; Matthew 10:34-11.1)

Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of Mount Carmel who is said to have appeared to the leader of the Carmelite Order in the middle of the thirteenth century. Having experienced different trials, Mary reputedly told St. Simon Stock that she would protect those wearing a brown scapular. Historians now question the veracity of the vision, but Carmelites rightly profess that wearing the scapular as a sign that following Jesus by way of Mary gains the Blessed Mother’s intercession. What should not be forgotten, as the reading from Isaiah reminds us, is the necessity to also assist one’s neighbors.

Isaiah lives in Jerusalem where one of the main activities is offering sacrifice to God in the Temple. The offerings are prescribed by the Mosaic Law, but carrying them out does not alone make one righteous. Even more important, as the prophet makes clear, is caring for the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

Jesus, of course, fulfills all the requirements of righteousness. In fact, he is the only person to do so completely. He meets the needs of the vulnerable and eventually offers himself as the perfect sacrifice. The Father does not demand that Jesus shed his blood on the cross as many people think. But He does require everyone to abide by His commands. In Jesus’ case, fulfilling God’s will entails submitting himself to human power, which is always risky. Our sins erect Jesus’ cross. God raises him from the dead as a sign of his victory over sin and our hope for eternal glory.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23)

Last year twenty-six Church workers across the world died violent deaths. Few can be considered actual martyrs, but in all probability most were staked out because there were serving Christ. Eighteen were priests, six were religious sisters, and four were laypersons. Thirteen of the number were killed in Latin America, six in Africa, four in Asia, and one in Europe. This evidence seems to conflict with the gospel passage today which predicts the coming of the Son of Man before the apostles finish preaching to the towns of Israel.

But how is Jesus’ saying to be interpreted? Obviously, many apostles were martyred before Matthew wrote his gospel in approximately 90 A.D. It is likely that the evangelist had in mind Jesus’ returning to his disciples after his resurrection where he be with them until the end of time (Matthew 28:16-20).

Working for the Church does make one vulnerable. After all, those who follow Christ claim to offer no resistance to violence. Perhaps more significantly, Church workers often live in relative comfort compared to the masses in poor countries. In any case the risk does not outweigh the joy of living close to the Lord. His favor makes all our sacrifices seem minute.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 11:1-4; 8e-9; Matthew 10:7-15)

“A man had two sons” is a familiar biblical theme. We find it in the story of Adam: Cain and Abel; of Abraham: Ishmael and Isaac; of Isaac: Esau and Jacob; and, of course, of the “Prodigal Son.” Typically one son pleases the father while the other broods and rebels. Nevertheless, the father’s love encompasses both.

We could also see the theme of a man with two sons in Israel, considered as a corporate son, and Jesus. Where Israel demonstrates fickleness in its allegiance to God, Jesus gains the Father’s pleasure. In the reading from the prophet Hosea today God expresses both tenderness and outrage for His son Israel. Although Israel has continuously betrayed God, He still promises to treat the nation mercifully. God’s love for Israel is actually played out in sending His Jesus to its rescue.

God loves each of us as He loves Israel. Never mind that we have sinned. Never mind that we too often brood rather than turn to God in repentance. God not only waits to forgive us but actively seeks us out in Jesus. His words call us to righteousness. His grace delivered empowers us to so act. We but need to turn to Him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot

(Hosea 10:1-3.7-8.12; Matthew 10:7-15)

St. Benedict left such a wonderful legacy that he was named patron of Europe. Our present pope chose Benedict as his particular patron because Benedict’s followers were largely responsible for the civilization of the continent. Still today Benedictine monks and their various offshoots contribute significantly to Church affairs and secular knowledge. Although Benedict was rather original in his expression, he but echoed the radical concern for people of Jesus Christ.

In today’s gospel Jesus sends his inner circle of disciples to preach the Kingdom of God. They are to go among “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” These are people who have lost the sense of God’s care for them. The disciples are to proclaim the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” which is to say that God is not a distant landlord but a benevolent ruler who looks after their needs.

Today many people are disillusioned with religion because of the violence perpetrated in its name. They prefer to give allegiance to the wonders of technology. It is difficult to find this latter affiliation leading to a more human civilization. The world needs new Benedicts to show how true peace is a product of charity. It looks for a creative genius who will form communities of self-sacrifice that will inspire a truly uplifting civilization.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 8:4-7.11-13; Matthew 9:32-38)

What do we live for? Some will say for their families. Other may not say it but their actions indicate that they live for pleasure – food or perhaps sex. A few seem to live for their work. The prophet Hosea castigates the people of Israel for living for idols.

Hosea was an eighth century B.C. prophet who preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria. The people at the time were inclined to worship the fetishes of their pagan neighbors instead of the Lord who saved them from servitude in Egypt. It is not difficult to suggest a reason for their infidelity. The pagan deities were much less demanding than God. Where the Lord insisted that the people control their appetites, paganism generally extolled licentiousness.

In Jesus the commands of God are brought to fulfillment. To many they seem harder to obey – not even to look with lust or not even to resist a rebuke? But this is because they forget that Jesus walks with us to share our burden.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hosea 2:16.17c-18.21-22; Matthew 9:18-26)

Rabbi Abraham Heschel taught that humans express sorrow on three levels. On the lowest level, they cry. On the next level, they keep silent. And on the highest level, they turn their sorrow into song. Music gives grief an outlet. For this reason the gospel today notes flute players beside the death bed of the Jewish maiden.

But is the girl really dead? The evangelist wants to show that there is no room for the death of a believer when Jesus, the author of life, is present. It would be like trying to keep the sun from shining. Jesus only has to say the word and the apparently lifeless springs to attention.

We live in a time when death has lost some of its sting. It is not unusual for people to live past eighty years old. Indeed, people openly talk of death as a blessing when its alternatives harbor suffering or listless existence. But the infirmity of old age, pain and unconsciousness are signs of impending death. When Jesus gives new life, there is vigor not misery. We await his call at the end of time when we will rise from the dust of our graves to experience a more abundant life than we have ever known.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 8:4-6.9-12; Matthew 9:9-13)

The famous psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck once began a presentation by speaking about one of the most important events of the twentieth century taking place in Akron, Ohio, during the 1930s. The audience wondered if they heard the man correctly. “What famous event ever took place in Akron, Ohio?” they thought. Soon Dr. Peck explained. He was referring to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that has enabled millions of people to overcome their lethal disease.

People attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have a distinct advantage over most of the population. They know that they are sick and therefore seek the necessary help to overcome their debility. Unfortunately, most of us are in denial regarding our sickness. Of course, not everyone is an alcoholic, but each of us has some inclination toward sin. Jesus tells us as much the Pharisees in the gospel today. Unless we acknowledge ourselves as sinners, he warns, we will not share in the Kingdom that he is bringing about.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 9:1-8)

The world will long be appalled by the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War II. They killed over six million Jews in their quest to show Aryan supremacy. The horror is being duplicated in a sense by the millions of abortions perpetrated every year. Since the crime was legalized in the United States, approximately fifty million human lives yearning to be born in this country alone have been obliterated. The gospel today indicates the possibility of forgiveness for these massive manifestations of sinfulness.

The people are bewildered by Jesus’ forgiving the sins of the paralytic. They wonder not only how Jesus could ignore the obvious desire of the man for healing but also how he could appropriate to himself the power to forgive. After all, only God can undo all the damage that sin causes. Graciously Jesus does not leave them in suspense. To show the people that he comes from God with the power to forgive, he cures the paralytic of his infirmity.

In a way more dramatic than a cure, Jesus will testify to his ability to forgive all the sins of the world – including those of the Nazis and those who have participated in abortion. He dies on the cross and then rises from the dead to insure us that our sins do not separate us from the love of God. They are nothing to be proud of and should be confessed, but they are forgivable and we, therefore, redeemable. Jesus’ death and resurrection have enabled us to walk with him truth and in love.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Amos 5:14-15.21-24; Matthew 8:28-34)

The words of the "Pledge of Allegiance," which many Americans will proudly recite today, end with an appeal for liberty and justice. It’s important to keep in mind that the United States has enshrined both virtues. Fairness in its laws is as much a part of the American heritage as the freedom which its founders risked life and fortune to attain. The prophet Amos pleads for a similar justice in the first reading today.

Amos lives in the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II of Israel, the northern kingdom. Unfortunately, not everyone is thriving. The poor are often swindled of the little they have while the wealthy luxuriate. The story of Ahab and the poor man Naboth provides a sterling example although it occurred some seventy-five years before Amos comes on the scene. The prophet cannot help but speak out against the inequities. In a phrase echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King, he implores, “...let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.”

As long as people cling to individual privileges and claim rights that ignore responsibility, the justice to which Amos appeals will be wanting. Jesus provides the key to the only adequate response. He died so that we might live in true freedom and complete justice. By modeling his self-sacrifice for others, Catholic Americans can assist their nation attain the ideals it espouses.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Feast of Saint Thomas, apostle

(Ephesians 2:19-22; John 20:24-29)

Mortimer Adler was the quintessential Jewish intellectual – prolific and deep. He was a devotee of St. Thomas Aquinas, but for a long time resisted becoming a Christian. He said that he did not have the gift of faith. Finally, however, he submitted to what his mind was telling him. He was baptized an Episcopalian and ultimately joined the Catholic Church. He, like today’s saint, came to admit that he was mistaken.

For all the doubt he harbored, St. Thomas can be credited with a genuine change of heart. He doesn’t have to express belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Calling Jesus, “Lord” and “God” transcends the acceptance of his associates’ testimony. True, as the gospel passage testifies, he has the benefit of seeing Jesus resurrected. Nevertheless, he gives up all pretension about having to touch Jesus’ wounds in order to believe. Such a grossly physical act would nullify faith as it comprises experimental proof.

The story about Thomas teaches us that the disciples of Jesus did ask themselves the question if they were “seeing things.” They prove themselves not visionaries but practical men who were willing to die for what they saw and heard. We too must act on our belief that Jesus has risen.