Voices May 06, 2019
Love bears witness to faith: Archbishop in Powell River
As part of his parish visits, Archbishop Miller travelled to Powell River to meet local Catholics and celebrate Mass with them at Church of the Assumption, Sacred Heart Church, and St. Gerard's Church April 25-28. This is an excerpt of his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28.
This experience of meeting and talking with so many people who are engaged in the life of your parish family has been both inspiring and a cause of great hope for the future of the Catholic Church in Powell River, Wildwood and Tla’Amin. You should be proud that, with God’s grace, your community is flourishing under the dedicated shepherding guidance of your beloved pastor, Father Patrick Tepoorten, and his assistant, Father Dass.
Some time in the next couple of months, I will send Father Patrick a written report, but allow me now to share just a few things.
I am pleased that your school is carrying out its mission as
an evangelizing community which is intentional in fostering in the students a
personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a Catholic world view, and a way of
life patterned on the Gospel. The Mass I celebrated on Friday morning with the
children and yesterday’s Confirmation gave me ample proof, if any were needed,
that you should be very proud of your Catholic school.
In the coming months you will have to make some decisions about the seismic upgrading of the school’s classrooms. The safety of our children is a primary concern. The report that has just been prepared will guide how you proceed to meet this challenge.
It is certainly the Lord’s work in your midst that so many of you are putting your gifts and talents at the service of other parishioners, as well as to a large number in the wider community, indeed even as far as India. The dedication of those who continue to serve year after year bears witness to your love for your parish. As Pope Benedict liked to say, the lay faithful are “co-responsible” for the life of the Church.
Continue to expand your ministries, inviting ever more parishioners to share in your many ministries, especially those who are younger and not yet as fully involved as those who have found a home here for many years. How to welcome new members to your ministries and the need to plan for the future are both necessary to ensure a flourishing future.
Gospel of Mercy
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, today’s Gospel overflows with divine mercy. On Easter evening, according to John’s account, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles for the forgiveness of sins (cf Jn 20:22-23). “The breath of Jesus, accompanied by the words with which he communicates the Spirit, signifies the transmission of life, the new life reborn from forgiveness.”
But, in the Gospel, one Apostle, Thomas, stands out for his personal experience of God’s mercy.
It is Sunday evening, a week after Jesus’ Resurrection, when the Apostles are all gathered together, this time with Thomas as well. The Evangelist wants us to put ourselves in Thomas’ shoes, re-creating the situation of all believers after that first generation – those who have not “seen” the Risen Lord.
Can we believe if we have not “seen” him for ourselves? That is the question St. John took up nearly 2,000 years ago – and it is as important today as it was then.
“Doubting” Thomas and Conditional Belief
Thomas didn’t want to or couldn’t trust the word of his brother Apostles, who told him: “We have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:25). The testimony of others was insufficient for him. He wanted to see for himself.
Like us at times, he put conditions on his belief: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25). He wanted to believe, but on his own terms. By placing such a condition, he denied that essential dimension of faith, which is trust. Thomas was unable to trust. He wanted proof, which usually takes the shape of granting some kind of request. I’ll believe in you God, if you will do this or that, if this will or will not happen...
At times we may all be tempted not to believe, to lose trust, to feel alone or abandoned by God. The reasons are many and particular to each one of us: suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent – all of these often put our faith to the test.
Jesus’ Response to Thomas’ Struggle
What this account of Jesus’ encounter with Thomas, whom we call “Doubting,” tell us is that the Lord God understands this. What I find most touching, most “merciful” in this account is that, despite the arrogance of Thomas’ demands, like Job putting God to the test, Jesus treats him tenderly.
Jesus understands Thomas’ predicament. He does not cast him aside or scold him for his unbelief. On the contrary, he invites him to come closer, to ponder the mystery of his Risen Body still marked with the wounds of his Passion, and gently says, “Do not doubt, but believe” (Jn 20:27).
The Apostle’s response to such merciful, forgiving love is to say: “My Lord and my God!” The One whom he had called “my Lord” during his public ministry is now also “my God” (Jn 20:28). He is one and the same! Thomas’ is the most splendid – the clearest and most direct – profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
And where are we who have neither seen nor touched those
wounds? That is the question the Lord addresses to us today: do we believe? Do
Jesus answers this question for us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). In every time and place those are blessed – we are blessed – who, on the strength of the word of God proclaimed in the Church and witnessed by Christians, believe that Jesus is the Son of God (cf. Jn 20:21), Mercy incarnate.
The Risen Lord tells those who surrender to the Mystery are “blessed.”
Why? We “have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). Let us implore the Lord of Mercy to sustain our faith and, if it is wobbly or weak, to help us in our unbelief.
More information about Archbishop Miller's parish visits, including his future schedule, can be found here.
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