Mass for the Extraordinary General Meeting
The following homily was preached by Rt Revd Msgr Eoin Thynne
ST PATRICK’S COLLEGE MAYNOOTH, 30 April, 2022
When something strange or unusual happens in the modern world people demand an explanation. There is a call for a public enquiry. Usually a member of the judiciary is asked to preside over the enquiry. Should it be reported that someone had come back from the dead, it would be headlined around the world and demands would be made that all the facts would be brought into the open.
With the facts as reported in this morning’s gospel we could easily visualise such an enquiry. The witnesses who claimed to have met and seen the risen Jesus would be called and thoroughly examined. First of all, his death would have to be established. This should not create any problems. It was a public event and there were numerous witnesses. The death of Jesus was so brutal it is surprising he did not die before he did. This could be testified to by impartial witnesses like the soldiers and the man who helped to carry his cross. Then there was the soldier just to make sure he died stuck the spear into his side. There was Joseph of Arimathea who put him in the tomb and the women who wrapped his body. There could be no great argument about his death.
His coming back from the dead is a different matter altogether. Here the witnesses would be called upon in the order they made their extraordinary discovery.
Mary of Magdala would be the first to take the witness stand. She discovered the empty tomb. She would be forced to admit that when she met Jesus she didn’t recognise him. It would be easy to demolish her as a credible witness, not to mention her dubious past which I am sure would be brought up.
Peter would be sworn in next, followed by John. Peter could be easily discredited. Any expert psychiatrist could demonstrate that he and John had been deeply traumatised the previous two days. Their lives had been shattered. They had gone onto hiding, fearing they might be next. The servant-girl would be found to testify that Peter swore 3 times that he didn’t know Jesus.
Finally, Thomas takes the witness stand. He was the one who refused to believe all the rumours that Jesus had risen from the dead. He demanded positive proof. Nothing less than to put his hands into the wounds. Either he is committing perjury or he is telling the truth. He is the only credible witness that would stand up in a modern court. And he has got bad press for himself over the last 2000 years. He has given the expression ‘doubting Thomas’ to the English language and that is not a compliment.
There is a bit of Thomas in all of us. And that is no harm. Belief thrives in a climate of doubt. We should never be afraid to question our faith. At times our faith may be shattered, perhaps because of tragedy or disaster. Belief and doubt are natural bed-fellows.
During this Eastertide we are given a chance to prove our love for Jesus by renewing our commitment to him and his teaching. It is a time when we reflect on the scriptures and very often question our faith. It is a time when our love for God can be strengthened.
Our love of God demands faithfulness; faithfulness to God, our friends and our responsibilities. Our love for other people flows from our love for God. That’s why love requires dedication in every situation and all circumstances. This was exactly the kind of love that Jesus required from Peter. It is the kind of love that Jesus requires from us.
There are many times we fail to recognise the presence of Jesus in our lives and in our world. Maybe it is due to our lack of faith or our sinfulness. Our ambition as Christians must be to aspire to true faith and real love of God, especially in an increasingly amoral and secular world.
As we reflect on this morning’s gospel and on our experience of Church, may we first of all thank God for the gift of faith. May we continually pray it will be strengthened. May we always recognise, no matter how many times we have denied Jesus by failing to love others, He will never deny us.
And may we be credible witnesses to our Christian calling by the lives we lead and the example we show.