Tag Archives: disciples

‘Dostoevski and Thomas’ (2 Easter B )

John 20:19- 29 (NRSV)

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”

 

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The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1602 –  Caravaggio
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

 

On cold December morning in Russia in 1849, 20 political prisoners were lined up to be shot by a firing squad.

However, just before the order was given, a message was delivered from Czar Nicholas I cancelling the executions.

Instead, the men were to serve ten years of hard labour in Siberia.

One of the prisoners was Feodor Dostoevski, a young man whose mother had died when he was only 16 and whose father had been murdered a few years later.

When Dostoevski got to Siberia, he found a copy of the New Testament and began to read it.  By the time he had finished, he was a firm believer.

Describing his impression of Christ, he wrote to a friend:

“No one is more beautiful… and more perfect than Christ…If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside of the truth…I would prefer to remain outside with Christ than inside with the truth.”

After his release from prison, Dostoevski turned to writing novels.  In quick succession, he wrote such classics as ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’

 

fyodor-dostoevsky_eK44Z

 

But success went to his head, and he began to drink and gamble heavily.  More than that, he set aside his faith.

Shortly before he died, however, Dostoevski returned to the faith.  This irritated his atheistic friends who ridiculed him.  They said that this was just the sick act of a sick man.

Commenting on their mockery, Dostoevski wrote in his diary:

“These fools could not even conceive so strong a denial of God as the one to which I gave expression….It is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess him.  My hosanna has come forth from the crucible of doubt.”

 

–oo00oo–

Dostoevski’s story is not unlike the story of Thomas in today’s Gospel.

Like Thomas, he had once placed all his faith in Jesus.

Like Thomas, he abandoned his faith in Jesus.

And like Thomas, he returned to his faith in Jesus.

Many of us can perhaps relate to the stories of Thomas and Dostoevski.

After placing all our faith in Christ, we too so often have gone on to abandon him, as they did.

Or, if we didn’t abandon him, we did not follow him as closely as we should have.

Anyone who has travelled the road of faith, knows that it’s not a wide paved highway; rather it’s a narrow dirt track.

Jesus himself said of the road of faith: ‘How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.’

So often that road involves struggle and times of darkness.

 

There are times when we find it hard to believe and we are sore tested by God.  When these times of darkness come, we might recall the words of a fugitive from the Nazis who wrote on the wall of a basement in which he was hiding:

‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. 

I believe in love even when I do not feel it.

I believe in God even when he is silent.’

 

Travelling that road of faith involved loving trust in God even in the darkest of times.

Remember these words which Jesus addressed to Thomas:

‘Do you believe because you see me?  How happy are those who believe without seeing me!’

 

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Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (or Terbrugghen) (1588 – 1 November 1629)

 

Collect

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,

now and for ever.

 

 

 

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Maundy Thursday – Foot Washing

From God’s Politics blog by Jim Wallace and friends via Sojourners

When Pope Francis Washes Women’s Feet, Arguments Follow. Who’s Right?
by David Gibson 04-15-2014

>On Thursday evening, in a familiar reprise of an ancient rite, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., will wash the feet of 12 men, all seminarians — a re-creation of Jesus’ action at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his disciples and, according to Catholic doctrine, formally instituted the priesthood.

That same evening, thousands of miles away, Pope Francis will also observe the Holy Thursday rite, though not in a cathedral like Morlino but at a center for people with disabilities. There he will wash the feet of a number of residents, all lay people and perhaps some of them women and even non-Christians or nonbelievers.

Francis did something similar last year, shortly after his election, when he stunned church observers by traveling to a juvenile detention center outside Rome and washing the feet of 12 young people, two of them women and two of them Muslims.

More than a few tradition-minded Catholics were aghast at the pope’s example and they welcomed Morlino’s effort to hold the line against innovations, at least in his Wisconsin diocese.

“The Church’s law says that only men may be the recipients of this foot washing,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a scrappy blogger popular with the Catholic right. “Morlino’s guidelines” — that his priests must wash the feet of 12 men or not do the foot washing at all — “do nothing but reiterate the Church’s laws, which bishops and priests are obliged to follow.”

So who’s correct?

Is the pope a dissenter? Or are Morlino and others being legalistic? What does the foot washing ritual represent, anyway?

There are no simple answers to those questions, though the weight of history and custom — not to mention authority — seems to be on the pope’s side.

An ancient rite

Accounts of Christian foot washing rituals go back as far as the sixth century. As Peter Jeffrey writes in his 1985 book, A New Commandment: Toward a Renewed Rite for the Washing of Feet, there were generally two forms: the “Mandatum Pauperam,” or washing of the feet of poor people, and the “Mandatum Fratrum,” the washing of the feet of “the brothers.”

Neither were part of the Holy Thursday liturgy, and popes and clerics routinely washed the feet of poor people as a sign of service and humility. In convents, as well, “woman washed feet and had their feet washed,” and they washed the feet of guests and children, said Rita Ferrone, the author of several books about liturgy and a consultant to U.S. dioceses on liturgical matters.

“Foot washing does have a long tradition,” Ferrone said, “and it didn’t exclude women up until 1955.”

That’s when Pope Pius XII simplified the Holy Week rites, a reform that included folding the foot washing ritual into the Holy Thursday Mass before marking Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.

The problem is that back then, Catholic women were not allowed into the restricted space near the altar and, unlike today, they could not have any part in the Mass. So the rule was that 12 chosen men — “viri selecti” in the Latin — would have their feet washed by the priest or bishop.

With that change, the foot washing rite also came to be seen as a kind of re-creation of the Last Supper and the institution of the priesthood.

“The tradition was not to have it be a dramatization of what Jesus did at the last Supper but to be a response to the command to humble service,” Ferrone said.

Modernizing reforms

While the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in numerous reforms, including of the liturgy, the rule on only washing the feet of men was never addressed.

But in the 1970s, in an effort to reflect the new openness of the church, bishops and priests in many dioceses simply ignored the old regulation and began washing the feet of lay people, including women. Sometimes there were a dozen, sometimes more.
Indeed, there is a photograph of Pope Francis, when he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, washing the feet of women with babies, some of whom were breast-feeding.

Today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledges the letter of the law but stresses that the rite aims to signify both charity and “humble service” rather than a re-enactment of the foundation of the priesthood. It drops any reference to washing the feet of 12 people (the number of the disciples) and notes that “it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world.”

So in that sense, it is a return to a more ancient tradition, and very much in line with what Pope Francis is doing.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said Tuesday that Francis’ decision to include women and nonbelievers was meant as a gesture “to embrace those who were on the fringes of society.” The official rules, he said, can sometimes be a distraction from “the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church.”

Still, this is the Catholic Church, and rules are rules. Even though a Vatican spokesman last year said Francis’ decision to wash the feet of women and Muslims on Holy Thursday was “absolutely licit” because it did not entail a sacrament, canon lawyer Edward Peters said that Francis set a “questionable example” by ignoring church law.

Peters, a blogger popular with church conservatives and a supporter of the rule, said it would be better to change the rule rather than risk undermining the rule of law by flouting it.

There are, of course, others who would like to see the current rule maintained and enforced the way Morlino does, and not just to maintain good order in the church.

“This is being used by those who wish to make a point about holy orders being reserved to men,” Ferrone said. The debate over the Holy Thursday foot washing, she said, “becomes yet another occasion for people who would like to see women excluded from the sanctuary.”

David Gibson writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

 

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April 17, 2014 · 15:31

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November 18, 2013 · 09:32

Goodbyes – some thoughts for Ascension Day

It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while.  Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.

There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..

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  • We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.

Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land.  He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.

He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’

He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.

  • Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man.  What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been.

Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed.  But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.

In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there.  He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.

Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..

  • Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David. 

Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends.  But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart.  They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.

 

Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:

    ‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’

They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.

  • There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus 

The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.

He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends.  Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.

How these Christians really did care for one another.

  • And lastly we come to the story of Christ saying goodbye to his friends at the time of his Ascension

It should have been a terrible occasion.  Here was Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.

Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes.  What a blow that should have been.

But when they parted, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ as we heard.  ‘Filled with great joy’ Why?  Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.

He would be with them, in spirit, always.  And not just with them, but with us too.

  • In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.

Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died.  I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”

We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.

Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.

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Acts of Kindness

A few years ago a woman by the name of Anne Herbert, a writer who lives in California, accidentally started a movement called ‘practising random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

She came up with the phrase while doodling on a restaurant placemat one day.  A man sitting nearby thought it was wonderful and copied it on his own placemat.

And suddenly people all over were copying the phrase down and doing what it suggests.

The objective of those who subscribe to this movement is quite simply to do kind things for other people for absolutely no reason at all other than the fact that they want to make the world a better place.

 Those who commit random acts of kindness do things like

      Taking a beautiful plant into the a police station to brighten the environment

      Letting the person in the supermarket queue behind you go before you.

      Complimenting a stranger on a bus on how good they look.

      or putting a coin into a stranger’s parking meter just before the time expires

 According to Anne Herbert some of the things that have been done by those who have caught the spirit of practising random acts of kinds and senseless acts of beauty include:

    -shovelling the snow from a neighbours walk when no one is looking

     -leaving a generous tip for a waiter who has provided poor service

     -planting daffodils along a highway

     -writing an old school teacher to let her know what a difference she made to her pupils

     -and going out and scrubbing graffiti off park benches.

“Here’s the idea”, she says, “Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly.  Kindness can build on itself as much as violence can.”

 

When the disciples were gathered in the upper room after the death and resurrection of Jesus, he appeared among them and said to them: “Peace be with you – As the Father sent me, so I send you”

And then he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”

As followers of Christ and heirs of the apostles, we have been given a commission, we have been given a power, and we have been given an authority:

The commission to go out as Jesus went out, to do good to others without judgement or criticism     And the authority and the privilege to actually make a difference in the lives of others, a   difference that counts – now – and forever.

 Mother Teresa once said this about her work in the streets of Calcutta:

“Non-Christians and Christians both do social work, but non-Christians do it for something, while we do it for someone.  This accounts for the respect, the love and devotion – because we do  it for God.  That is why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

“We are in continual contact with Christ in his work, just as we are in contact with him at mass and in the Blessed Sacrament. There, Jesus has the appearance of bread.  But in the world of misery, in the torn bodies, in the children, it is the same Christ that we see, that we touch.”

The first Christian Community was so dynamic, so loving, so sharing, so united – because it lived wholeheartedly for the Risen Christ.

The first believers knew with every fibre of their being that God’s love conquered all -even death itself – and they were eager to share that love with others, that they might know the blessedness of life as God meant it to be.

They practised random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, as an act of devotion, and as a natural response to what God had already done for them.

And so – in a sense – the acts of kindness and beauty that they committed were no longer random or senseless:

they had a purpose, a holy purpose,

the purpose of not only bringing people closer to each other and making a better society, but the purpose of bringing people into a healing and cleansing relationship with God – a relationship in which both our joy and theirs are complete

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October 22, 2012 · 13:12

Why TWELVE Disciples?

The Meenister’s Log

Twelve is one of the smallest numbers that has a large number of factors , i.e. 1,2,3,4 and 6 all divide into 12 without remainder.

In the Jewish culture of that time, numbers were very significant. 7 was regarded as holy, and, of course the number 40 (as in 40 days and nights) indicated a particular time, very much as we would use the term ‘month of Sundays’ these days, not to literally mean 31 Sundays, but ‘a long time’.

The number 12 in the Jewish culture was something very special – signifying perfection. As an example, in Revelation, the number in heaven is given as 144,000. Despite what Jehovah’s Witnesses say about literally accepting numbers like this, the number 144,000 signified a ‘large’ number of people (the ,000) and 12 x 12 – the height of perfection -a very apt number for multitude of people (“whom none can number…”) in heaven.

Similarly, the Jews had 12 tribes of Israel. Again a perfect number.

Thus, in order that Jesus should have the correct, or perfect number of disciples, he chose 12. In addition, he chose 72 (half of 12 X 12) as followers in an ‘outer circle’ of people who would go out to proclaim the Kingdom.

In addition to the 12 and the 72 of course, Jesus chose 3 specially close disciples (3 is a quarter of 12) peter, James and John.

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