Doubting Thomas: The Faith Strengthener?

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, Pope

Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvelous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief.

The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.

Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith.

When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.

What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

The Significance of Easter Lillies

It’s Easter Sunday and our church is filled with many beautiful and fragrant flowers, chief among them the lily. The magnificent white lily known as the Easter Lily has long stood as a symbol of purity, hope, innocence and peace. Also called the Bermuda lily, the Trumpet lily, and Jacob’s Tears, the Easter lily is a biblical flower commonly associated with the resurrection of Christ.

In Christian tradition, the Easter lily signifies rebirth and a new beginning. It is said that beautiful white lilies sprang up in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus wept in the last hours before he was betrayed by Judas. Another legend claims that the white lilies grew from the repentant tears shed by Eve upon her departure from Paradise.

The lily is mentioned frequently throughout the bible and serves today as a beautiful reminder of the significance of the Easter season. Easter lilies grace homes and churches each spring as a symbol of purity, joy, hope and life.

Holy Week: Reenacting the Passion of Our Lord

Holy Week is the last week of Lent. It begins on March 24th this year and ends on April 1st. The purpose of Holy Week is to reenact, relive, and participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Holy Week includes…

  • Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday), the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.
  • Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday), the institution of Communion and the betrayal by Judas.
  • Good Friday, the arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus Christ.
  • Holy Saturday, the Sabbath on which Jesus rested in the grave.

The time from sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Day is also  known as the Triduum, which is Latin for “three days.”

Holy Week observances began in the earliest days of the Church, when devout people traveled to Jerusalem at Passover to reenact the events of the week leading up to the Resurrection.

Friday: Preparation Day, the Passover

The disciples arranged for the Passover meal, which took place after sundown on Thursday (making it Friday by Jewish reckoning). Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover in the upper room. Judas betrayed Jesus, who spent the rest of the night being tried by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate. The following morning the Crucifixion took place just as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple. Jesus died on the cross and was buried before sunset. So Friday was first day that Jesus lay in the tomb.

Saturday: the Jewish Sabbath

Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. This is the second day in the tomb.

Sunday: the first day of the week, the Festival of First Fruits

On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave. It was the first day of the week and the day after the Sabbath. The first day of the week is the Jewish name for Sunday. Sunday is also the eighth day after the creation in Genesis, so Paul describes Jesus’ Resurrection as the first fruits of the new creation.