Seeing is Believing

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, the Sunday Gospel reading told the post-resurrection story of Thomas, who has the very unfortunate reputation as somebody who did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Most of us are familiar with the phrase Doubting Thomas. This is the guy. For some unknown reason, he did not show up for that first gathering when the disciples were visited by Jesus in his resurrected state.

A week later, Thomas is there at the gathering when Jesus appears and he invites Thomas to touch his wounds as proof he is alive. Thomas, of course, proclaims his belief saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is what condemns Thomas’ reputation — that he needed to see in order to believe.  Thus, for 2000 years his fate is sealed by a moment when he actually asked a legitimate question. How many times have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”?

Most of us are like Thomas I would wager. We need to see lots of things before we can believe. There are some things in life that are so fantastical, so dream-like, and so unreal to us that seeing is believing. Like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. (Oh right, I forgot they did win after waiting 108 years.)  We are all doubters, too bad Thomas gets the bad reputation we all could claim.

Seeing is believing is not a bad thing when it comes to God. Sometimes we believe God is acting in our lives because we see it – in a life that is changed for the good, a sickness that is unexpectedly healed. We can see God all over the place if we really look. Just go to the nearest window and marvel at what you see.  After all, John describes the believers as we who have seen His glory. (John 1:14)

When we believe because we have seen, we have experienced something marvelous, some unexpectedly wonderful. How can you not believe after seeing a sunset or the moon rise? (If you need a little inspiration watch this 4 minute video of the moon rising in New Zealand).

Belief is a gift, a gift that comes after being blind to God in some way. But we can come to belief either way, by the sheer gift of God in a moment of awakening to faith, or by seeing something, being a witness to something in life that awakens us to faith.  Start with faith. Start with needing to see. Same thing in the end. What God desires for us is that we come to belief.  Does it matter to God one way or the other how we come to faith? I don’t think so, just as long as we can get there in the end.

Thomas, you did us all a favor by being absent that day and coming to faith by naming what most of us hold in secret.  We can turn: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” into “I see because I believe.”

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Easter: Vanishing into Presence

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

How quickly he slipped away.  He left them far too soon; he left them fearful and in hiding, he left them in a state of loss  and bereft of a future.

He left the tomb empty, and no note of explanation. Mary of Magdala, recognizing him, reached out—and he would not let her touch him. “Go. Tell. ” he said to her, and he was gone. Other post-resurrection appearances were similar. He appeared, had a brief and potent exchange with them, then disappeared. The couple traveling to Emmaus talked at length with him, but did not recognize him till they broke bread with him, whereupon he vanished. He appeared at least twice to those who gathered behind locked doors, and made breakfast for them as they fished. And he vanished. He sent them out to preach the Gospel, and with a promise to be with them until the end of time, vanished.

Our ritual celebration of Easter is tangible and rich, the Divine Mystery so present in sign and symbol. The whole Triduum is suffused with a deep sense of presence—ours to Christ, Christ to us, that mystery of extraordinary love and selflessness, renewed again. The igniting of the New Fire, the lighting of the Paschal candle, the tapers spreading flames, the chapel gradually coming to full glow. And then, the  Exultet: “ Rejoice heavenly choirs! Rejoice O earth in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your king! Christ has conquered, glory fills you!”  Our assembly resounds with joy. We celebrate and go forth awash in glory, a newly created Easter People.  Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia!

Departing , we have to pull on winter coats. Yes. It’s Northern Ohio. We walk out into an April snow, on  ground hard and frosted, the green blades struggling to rise, their blooming deferred again. The immediate chill of contrast: the brightness of the ritual versus the dark and cold.  And before I’m home, there’s already doubt. The stubborn winter is everywhere, I think. It’s been centuries, and we’re still lost in pain and fear and hatred. Tomorrow’s paper will feature an Easter greeting, an illustration on the front page, perhaps, but the rest will be the usual, or worse—wars, starvation, refugees, the misery we humans inflict on each other.

I admit it—the joy and hope of Christ’s Resurrection in me can slip so quickly. Like the couple on the road to Emmaus, I ask Jesus Risen “Are you the only one around here who hasn’t heard the endless bad news? How our world anguishes, groans, her people still enslaved in darkness? We had hoped there would be brighter light and love by now, that your resurrection would transform the face of the earth. Is it, are You, True?”

Jesus patiently explains to me, again, the Easter truth: vanishing does not mean withdrawal or abandonment. His Rising is a vast explosion, sending shards of his shining presence into all creation, expanding the Incarnation—the precious entanglement of humanity and God– far beyond any human hope or dream can reach; setting the Spirit free to keep the promise alive, to ignite and unite and delight us, “Eastering” in and through us, making music out of our groaning, and dancing out of our stumbling. Our very human doubting and believing are, in the Spirit’s power, both elements of  transformation—of us and of all creation.  We sang it. “Love is/will come again, like wheat arising green.”  Or the plucky daffodils of Northern Ohio. Do I hear an “Alleluia?”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Dr. King and the March for Our Lives

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Today we remember the death of Dr. Martin Luther King which occurred fifty years ago in Memphis. Dr. King became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement using the nonviolent teaching of Gandhi.  Five years earlier, Dr. King, in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote a letter to Christian ministers who had criticized the nonviolent but confrontational tactics used in the Birmingham.  As I read this letter, I could hear him speaking to the students of the March for Our Lives Movement and to all those involved in working for justice.

King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Is it just for an individual to walk into a school and shoot 20 first graders?  Or how about shooting fourteen high school students?  Is it just for a child to be afraid to walk to school? Where is there justice when these killings go on and on? When we deny life to innocent school children, isn’t it easy to deny justice to Dreamers, the unborn, and creation?

“We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”  King quotes British Statesman and Prime Minister William E. Gladstone for a concept that has become a cornerstone of our legal system.  The Columbine shooting occurred on April 20, 1999, the first of many such mass shootings.  Almost twenty years and what progress has been made in stopping these horrific shootings? Every child killed in a school has had justice denied to him or her.

King expresses frustration with “white moderates who constantly advise the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”  When is it appropriate to fight for one’s civil rights … or convenient to protest school shootings?  Some politicians argue that there is never a good time.  Is it really a timing or a lack of political courage?

By all accounts, Dr. King was a brilliant and precocious student.  He skipped ninth and twelfth grades and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15.  He was an excellent orator.  His courage to stand up to injustices is a model for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for our Dreamers, and all young people with a budding desire for justice.  Thank you, Dr. King, for your inspiration, your courage, and your words.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

HOLY WEEKS

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Today’s Gospel is a reminder of the painful times that Jesus had to face sometimes with his friends whom he called disciples. He tried to give them a message of hope, of compassion, and some responded with mistrust; a need for more than just hope for a good future but also for a successful present. They want it all and they want it now.

This is not news. This is how it is in 2018. Some members of the believing community will betray Jesus for just about anything: the right to run a stop sign ‘cause there is no traffic around; the right to complain bitterly when someone gets into the express check out line who should not have; the right to spread gossip and rumors; the right to deny people respect because they are not male, or are not white, or are not straight, or are not rich, or are not English speaking; the right to deny decent health care to everybody unless they can afford it.

Jesus was sad that evening when he realized how weak his disciples still were after all those days they spent with him. We can say that that would never be us, but, truth be told, it often is in big and little ways every day.

So go ahead and judge Judas or Peter, but let’s pray for ourselves each and every day that we can grow more grace filled and more committed to the words of our God than ever before. We have the heart and the courage to try always to do the best we can. The world needs a lot more people like that, and we need a lot more holy weeks!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Night Gives Way to Dawn

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, I was asked to contribute to an LCWR booklet, reflecting on the work of Chris Pramuk, a keynote speaker at the August Assembly last year. His address was so compelling, you might remember that we used the DVD of his presentation for reflection at last Fall’s mission group meetings.  I want to share with you now the reflection I prepared. It anticipates the Pascal Mysteries we celebrate in Holy Week and Easter.  Soon we will hear all the stories of our redemption once again.

Night Gives Way to Dawn
“To lean into the mystery of resurrection faith like the mothers [of the disappeared] do—like the women at the empty tomb—is to follow our deepest intuition, as night gives way to dawn, that life reverberates beyond death, and that love will endure beyond any earthly power to extinguish it.”
Christopher Pramuk, Night Gives Way To Dawn

After that long and horrible day, we returned home in the hope that we might comprehend what happened that Good Friday. The following day, we gathered in my kitchen to see what was needed and how we might still serve Him. We wanted something warm to eat and a cup of wine to take away a chill that had nothing to do with the weather. His mother was numb with grief and I hardly knew what to say to her.  No words could capture this devastation, as we watched her sit quietly, alone in the room. Nothing was ready for an unexpected burial, we needed time to think, reflect, and plan a funeral.

When we arrived at the tomb, the angel startled us.  She stared at us as if we should have known all along that Love will endure beyond any earthly power. As if we should have known that night gives way to dawn. Perfumes and spices we did not need and it became clear to us that love was not overpowered by hate.

His followers could hardly hear us as we tried to voice what we saw. We were speaking as if to the deaf, so deeply had their grief hardened their souls. “He lives”, the angel told us.  “He lives”, we told them all. We did not find a death. We did not find a death. We awoke to Dawn. Awoke to dawn.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word