Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Lord and My God

We all know someone like Frank.

Frank was the kind of person who loved to get into arguments with people. If you told him something was blue, he would argue with you that it was really red. If you told him that two plus two is four, he would tell you that it really equals three. Frank would just not accept  that anything was true or that he did not already have all the answers.

No one suffered more from Frank’s argumentativeness than his co-worker Ted. Ted was a devout Catholic and was not ashamed to let people know. Frank took every opportunity to let Ted know that he disagreed with just about everything the Church teaches. Because Ted was knowledgeable about his faith, he was able to answer most of Frank’s questions and objections. However, one day he lost patience with him and said, “Just admit it. You have so many doubts because you want an excuse for not believing in anything.”

For the first time, Frank had no answer. Ted’s words had touched a nerve in him, and he was left speechless. Looking into himself, he realized that Ted was right. He really did not believe in anything. And that realization left him feeling empty inside and afraid.

Not knowing where to begin to find some kind of faith, Frank bought a Bible and read the story of Doubting Thomas, one of the figures of the New Testament he could most sympathize with. Like Thomas, Frank wanted to see for himself, to know for certain. However, unlike Thomas, he was not able to see Jesus face to face, to touch Him or to put his finger in His wounds. He decided that he would have to do what seemed to be the next best thing. So for the first time in over twenty years, Frank decided to go to Mass.

When he walked into church, he was surprised by how much he felt at home, as if he belonged there and had never left. The young woman sitting next to him helped him find the songs and readings in the missalette. He was able to remember most of the responses, though he could not remember when to stand, sit and kneel. While the deacon preached, he tried to put aside his argumentative nature so that he could really listen to everything he was saying.

But the most moving part of the Mass for him was during the Eucharistic prayer. When the priest held up the host and said, “This is my body which will be given up for you”,  he heard the woman sitting next to him whisper, “My Lord and My God.” Those were the same words that Thomas had spoken when the Risen Jesus appeared to him! It all began to make sense. It was at Mass and, in particular, when receiving communion, that he could see for himself the Risen Lord. Through the gift of the Eucharist, he could touch Jesus’ Body and Blood just as Thomas had done. With that insight from the Holy Spirit,  Frank went from doubting to believing. He had seen for himself that Jesus is real, and his life would never be the same.

Jesus tells us that each one of us is blessed because we believe without seeing. We have not seen Jesus with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith. We know that He is real not because we have touched Him but because He has touched us. That gift of faith given to us in our baptism and nourished through God’s word and the sacraments sustains us during our earthly life until we can see our Risen Lord face to face in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is important for us to reflect from time to time on how precious this gift of faith is. Many people, like Frank, experience profound doubts and carry burdensome questions about the meaning of their lives and the purpose of their suffering without knowing where to find answers. Many people feel utterly alone with the crushing anxiety and overwhelming despair they experience without knowing where to find comfort. Though our faith certainly does not take away our suffering or answer all our questions for us, it does give us a place to go where we can begin to find some understanding and some sense of meaning. It gives us hope that, though we do not have everything figured out, God is in control and our destiny is in His loving hands.

Saint Thomas teaches us what we should do when we experience doubt, temptation and confusion. We should go to Jesus. He is always there for us. He is always by our side. He wants us to know Him and to live an abundantly blessed life. Through His Church, He has provided us with many means of drawing close to Him and receiving grace upon grace including the forgiveness of our sins. Going straight to Jesus, most especially by participating in Mass, will make our burden lighter and our way smoother.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy. We remember that Jesus has His arms wide open waiting to receive anyone who comes to Him. As He told Saint Faustina, “The greater the sinner, the more right He has to my forgiveness and mercy.” If we have been holding back because of fear and doubt, now is the time to put it all in Jesus’ hands and run to Him so that we can receive faith and hope. He will never turn us away.

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