The Second Sunday of Easter
15 April 2012
My dear friends,
He lost his mother when he was nine years old. He then lost his older brother, a doctor, to scarlet fever. Finally, he lost his father to a heart attack. “By the time I was twenty I had already lost all the people that I loved.” These were the words of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul 11, as he looked back over his life.
From that time onwards, this young Polish student turned his thoughts to the idea of priesthood and to the service of God. He looked on those early losses in his life as providential. “God was preparing me for what was to happen. My father was the person who explained to me the mystery of God and made me understand. Even now when I awake at night, I remember seeing my father kneeling, praying.” Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. It was on the second Sunday of Easter in 2005 that Pope John Paul 11 died and it was on the same Sunday in 2011 that he was beatified.
Today’s Gospel, told by John, is a powerful account of the appearing of the risen Jesus. The disciples see the wounds that were made on his body. Then the risen Lord gives them a clear command, sending them out to the whole world to reconcile all to God. It was the same Spirit that was at work in the life of Karol Wojtyla and which led him to exclaim, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.”
One of the apostles, Thomas, was absent. The doubts he expressed about a risen Lord were sensible and understandable. He needed some proof. There is a sense in which Thomas represents all of us in our absence from this event. In appearing again to Thomas, Jesus is appearing to each one of us. He calls down a blessing on us, the blessing of faith, the gift of believing. As Thomas yielded to what he saw, he was able to say, “My Lord and my God.”
John retells this story so that we may believe in the risen Lord and, in believing, we may have life. This life brings us to love God and to dedicate our lives in service of him and one another. It enables us to do that, as the young Karol Wojtyla did, even in face of a cruel and destructive world. Loving leads us to a spirit of respect and humility. It enables us to bow in awe before the splendour of creation and to kneel in appreciation and in prayer before our heavenly Father.
Pope John Paul 11 never forgot the sight of his father kneeling in prayer and followed his humble example. He went on his knees every day and prayed to the Lord of risen life. Recognising the creator in prayerful conversation leads us to loving our neighbour. “We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself.” It is not many days since we commemorated Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples. This was to be a defining example for his followers in the manner in which they were to live and in the spirit in which they were to relate to one another.
In visiting so many countries and, in the process, kneeling and kissing the soil of each, Pope John Paul 11 imitated the example of his Master.
Our reflection on the Scripture readings of today’s Mass and our recall of the day that is in it, the Second Sunday of Easter, brought to mind the person and witness of Blessed John Paul 11. His early losses and the example of his father strengthened his faith and his determination. The appearances of Christ to his disciples after his resurrection restored their faith and commitment. Faith begins on its knees in prayer and continues on its knees in humble service of God and neighbour. Humility is an essential ingredient of spirit in enabling us to live in the manner Jesus taught us.
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”
+Liam S. MacDaid