EASTER MIRACLES: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER - APRIL 3, 2016... the readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040316.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading, your feedback and comments and for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.   God Bless you and have a great week - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

I don’t believe you

That was the response that 12 year old Julia Burzzese and her parents heard from doctors, health care agencies, and medical insurance people, when the little girl went from being this active sixth grader who played softball, soccer and sang in the choir to becoming debilitated with severe medical issues. It started on May 10 of last year she started to have severe stomach pains that didn’t go away. Then she started having difficulty walking, became feverish, her fingernails were turning brittle, some of her hair was falling out. Within weeks she wasn’t able to walk at all and ended up needing a wheelchair.

After a bunch of tests that seemed to eliminate all kinds of possible ailments, the doctors starting dismissing her completely saying "you’re making this up and you don’t even realize you’re making it up." To prove the point, one therapist started to poke, prod her lifeless legs to try to get her to react - and even went so far as to hold her up and drop her to see if she could or would stand... barely able to get his hands in place to catch her head from smashing against the floor.

In the days and weeks that followed, the family was at a loss as to what they could do next. Knowing Pope Francis was going to arrive in New York this past September, they brought Julia in her wheelchair to Kennedy Airport searching for a miracle. As Pope Francis walked, he stopped and saw Julia, went over to her touching her head and blessing her. She said to reporters that she knew she would experience a miracle and that she was going to walk again... And guess what, the little girl experienced a miracle. Not the immediate, dramatic, jumping out of her wheelchair one that you might have expected. But the coverage was observed by other doctors who inquired about the girl and what was it that confined her to the wheelchair. 5 days later, a blood test revealed a partially conclusive detection of Lyme Disease. An advocacy group found a Lyme Specialist who agreed to treat her, Lenox Hill Hospital offered to put in a catheter when a nurse shared her story and offered to donate her services to treat her. Another health care service donated thousands of dollars in medication that her insurance had refused. And praise God, this past week, she started to feel tingling in her feet and ankles where there had been no sensation for months.

The young Julia, very wise for her age, reflectively said to a reporter: If you believe and pray, everything can happen.

Isn’t that what we celebrate this season of Easter? We celebrate, we rejoice, in our God who tells us that when we turn to Him, we should expect the unexpected... In raising Jesus Christ from the dead, God has shown in a way that has altered history forever very clearly to expect the unexpected.


In this Gospel we just heard, the apostles who knew that they had failed miserably are gathered together. They weren’t able to stop Jesus from being arrested, falsely accused, tortured and crucified. They weren’t able to stop it, because they weren’t even there! They had bailed on him. In the midst of that failure of epic proportions, their worlds must’ve seemed to have been destroyed forever. More than likely that first Good Friday and Holy Saturday, they remembered all Jesus had said and done over those three years they followed him, and maybe a cynical thought came to mind saying – yeah, a lot of good that did. Perhaps somewhat jaded themselves thinking there was nothing left to do, they lock themselves into isolation from the world.

And it is right there... There in the midst of that isolation, that cynicism, the sense of defeat that the resurrected Jesus Christ comes to meet them. He stands in their midst, not inhibited by the locked doors or their broken, dis-spirited hearts. He doesn’t offer words of condemnation, or judgment on their failures. Not even an "Uh, guys, so what happened???" - Instead he comes and says "Peace be with you." And then He tells them what they’ve just experienced, this undeserved forgiveness, they are to go forth in His name and do the same, share the same (which is one of the places in Scripture we see the basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession by the way...)

In the matter of moments, these first followers experience Easter themselves... something quite unexpected became real to them. Not just that Jesus was risen from the dead, but that they too were to rise up from their own feelings of death, their own experiences of destruction and to start anew.

Then there’s Thomas, who often becomes the sole focus whenever this Gospel is proclaimed - who is I think, a bit unfairly considered by many to be the cynic, the "doubter" simply because he misses this first encounter. (I always wonder what he had going that night? He should be the patron saint of people who miss Mass on Sunday Night, cause "something else came up") But the reason I think it’s unfair that he’s simply referred to as "Doubting Thomas" is because it’s understandable that he would doubt. The story sounded too good to be true, while the failures on their parts were all too real.

Yet, we can’t miss something that’s so important to this story: There’s a part of him that wants to believe and Hopes it’s true - Hopes that the Easter news is real. Wants to expect the unexpected himself. How do we know that? Because HE’S THERE the following week. Despite his objections and initial dismissal of his fellow apostles testimony, he’s with them in that upper room the next week and is able to experience the Risen Jesus Christ revealing His living presence to him. And so now Thomas experiences how real Easter was as well. And the God who had raised Jesus from the dead would continue to do amazingly unexpected things in all of their lives.

Which is the promise of Easter for those who continue to follow Jesus Christ. The sad reality is that a week ago, churches were overflowing with present-day disciples who came to hear, once again, this good news of Jesus’ victory over death. And yet with their absence today, you wonder if as they heard that news recounted do they think to themselves "so what? A lot of good that will do?"

Even for those of us who are here, maybe some of us are going through things that make us doubt... have had things that have hurt us and left us somewhat cynical. Like Thomas, we hope for the best, we want to believe but... we’re not getting ourselves too excited lest we are let down again.

Yet Easter calls us to expect the unexpected. The new life of Christ wants to resurrect that which has been beaten down, even died within us. Just think about it, a simple blessing of little Julia, that image captured the hearts and minds of countless others who broke through the cynicism, doubts and outright dismissal of this girl and she’s begun to experience the healing she longed for.

What is going to be our story? Right now, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead wants us to expect the unexpected - to do amazing, life-giving things for each one of us. Too often we find ourselves like the apostles were that Easter night - limiting ourselves by our mistakes and failures and forgetting what wonders our God is capable of (which is exactly what Satan, the prince of darkness wants us to do). How is Jesus trying to cast his glorious light into the darkness of our lives? How is He trying to break into the rooms of isolation we lock ourselves away in to speak his words of Peace, of Forgiveness of Life-altering transformation? If we open our hearts to let Him, we might be surprised to find the good it will do.

 

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