SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
In the past 24 hours, how many lies, do you suppose, have been told in the world?
To help you start your calculations, let me remind you that of all God’s creatures, only human beings lie. And that the current world-wide population of human beings is estimated to be about 7½ billion.
How many lies, do you suppose….in the past 24 hours?
Of course, I’d like to believe that there are plenty of people who never lie. But, if so, I fear, they might be lonely. I suspect that most of us have reason to be grateful for the little white lies with which our families and friends - kindly - daily - deceive us.
But if there are some who never lie, I suspect that there are also plenty who lie multiple times every day.
So, if you had to guess, how many lies have been told on earth…since yesterday?
I don’t expect that there’s any way to accurately calculate each day’s number of lies - lying, by its nature, being a rather secretive business.
But insofar as most of us are lied to regularly every day - think of the Internet - think of Facebook and Twitter - I only mean to get us thinking about falsehood, and the amount of it each of us is required to sort through every day in order to arrive at our own understanding of what to believe.
What’s true? And how do you know?
Every year, on the Sunday after Easter, the Church hears the story of ‘Doubting Thomas.’ I know that there are pastoral and theological reasons for this habit, but I’ve never felt that it’s quite fair to poor Thomas. It’s really the only thing most people know about him.
But consider. On Easter evening, Christ appears to ten of the eleven remaining apostles; Judas is dead, and Thomas is absent.
But to blame Thomas for doubting what he had not seen is to claim credit ourselves, for a skill that none of us has - the ability to distinguish between truth and lies…..absent the necessary evidence. Ten days before, Judas had betrayed Christ to the High Priest and to Pilate. Judas arrived in the Garden with armed soldiers, who led Christ away. They tried him quickly - overnight - and Christ was executed within 18 hours. But Judas had betrayed, not only Christ, but all of them. When Judas betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver, he put all of their lives in danger. Thomas and the other apostles - whom Jesus had called his ‘brothers’ - had been lied to. Judas turned out to be someone other than who he had claimed to be.
We don’t know why Thomas was missing on Easter night, when Christ appeared to the other apostles. We tend to assume that, if Thomas knew about the gathering, he either couldn’t make it, or didn’t want to. But the gospel doesn’t explain it. Perhaps he just couldn’t face them. Disillusionment can leave one feeling vulnerable.
But what if Thomas hadn’t been invited? What if he hadn’t known about it? Or even allowing that he had been invited and declined, who are we to criticize?
Would you crave the company of this cowardly remnant who had abandoned their Master after his arrest? Would you crave the company of ten hiding, huddled men, all of whom in addition to yourself had been betrayed, that is, lied to by the twelfth?
The important thing, my friends, is not that, once, Thomas doubted. No, the important thing is that when he later saw Christ - when he later touched him - Thomas believed.
Sorting through this world’s lies is never easy; and while we’re still here, it’s never over.
Judas demonstrates - Peter demonstrates - that even apostles are capable of lying.
Christ is not. Christ is God’s own Truth-made-flesh. So find Christ. Believe Christ. Read Christ’s gospel. Dine at Christ’s table. And don’t believe anyone who claims to know Christ until they’ve touched his wounds.
That’s how you know that they can be trusted. – Fr. Brian
Fr. George McKenna, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was one of my teachers when I was a student at Quigley High School Seminary South. He wrote a book in 2007 entitled Wisdom from the Pulpit. In it he shared a story entitled, “What Was in Jeremy’s Egg?” I was deeply moved by the story. It brought tears to my eyes when I first read it. I would like to share that story with you this morning. It is a true story.
Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. His parents tried to give him a life as normal as possible and had sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School. At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in Grade 2, seemingly unable to learn.
His teacher often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly. One day his teacher called his parents for a consultation and told them, “Jeremy belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to the other children.” As Jeremy’s mother cried softly, her husband spoke, “There isn’t any school of that kind nearby. We know Jeremy likes it here.” The teacher reluctantly agreed to let Jeremy remain in the class.
From that day on, his teacher tried to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. One day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him and told her. “I love you.” It was loud enough for all the children to hear, and they snickered at him.
In Spring, his teacher told her students the story of Easter. She gave each of them an empty plastic egg and told them, “Take the egg home and bring it back tomorrow with some sign of new life in it.” She wondered if Jeremy understood her instructions.
The next morning, 19 children came to school and placed their eggs in the large basket on the teacher’s desk. In one was a flower, in another a plastic butterfly, both signs of new life. She then opened the next egg and realized it was empty. She guessed that it was Jeremy’s and that he had not understood her instructions. So as to not embarrass Jeremy, she put the egg to the side. Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” “But your egg is empty,” the teacher replied. He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty too.”
Recess came, and the teacher cried. Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the funeral home were surprised to see 19 plastic eggs on his casket. All of them were empty.
Today we have just listened to another Resurrection story – the original story – the greatest story ever told, a story about an empty tomb. It is a story full of life, hope, consolation and joy. What that empty egg meant to Jeremy and to his teacher and classmates, the empty tomb represents for us today. Each and every year, as we listen to the Resurrection story, we are meant to understand and appreciate more deeply in our lives the hope, the meaning and the joy of the Resurrection. As we reflect on the empty tomb, we are reminded that although we cannot see Jesus and do not know exactly where he is, he is alive and risen from the dead. We are reminded that where Jesus has gone, we will one day follow. This is what the empty eggs on the casket of Jeremy so powerfully signified for his family and friends.
God worked through Jeremy to give his teacher and fellow classmates a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Resurrection. As we are about to enter into the Easter season this year, God wants to work through each and every one of us to become the good news of the Resurrection to one another by the witness of our lives of faith, hope, love and service. The Resurrection of Jesus invites us to open our hearts to the miracle of life after life and to love, to trust and to believe more faithfully than we have ever loved, trusted and believed before. The good news of Easter is that the tomb is empty and that Jesus is alive and in our midst. Sin and death have been conquered forever. Let us rejoice and be glad.
God bless all of you, and have a joyful and blessed Easter. – Fr. Paul