April 23, 2017: LOW SUNDAY
April 23, 2017: LOW SUNDAY
Rank: Double of the I Class
(The Octave of Easter)
“After eight days, the doors being shut, Jesus stood in the midst of his Disciples, and said: Peace be with you.”
(St. John, xx. 26)
The Octave of the Pasch and Our Lord's Seventh Apparition.
This is the eighth day for us who kept the Pasch on the Sunday, and did not anticipate it on the vigil. It reminds us of all the glory and joy of that Feast of Feasts, which united the whole of Christendom in one common feeling of triumph. It is the day of Light, which takes the place of the Jewish Sabbath. Henceforth, the first day of the week is to be kept holy. Twice has the Son of God honoured it with the manifestation of his almighty power. The Pasch, therefore, is always to be celebrated on the Sunday; and thus, every Sunday becomes a sort of Paschal Feast.
Our Risen Jesus gave an additional proof of his wishing the Sunday to be, henceforth, the privileged Day. He reserved the second visit he intended to pay to all his Disciples for this the eighth day since his Resurrection. During the previous days, he has left Thomas a prey to doubt; but, to-day he shows himself to this Apostle, as well as to the others, and obliges him, by irresistible evidence, to lay aside his incredulity. Thus does our Saviour again honour the Sunday. The Holy Ghost will come down from heaven upon this same day of the week, making it the commencement of the Christian Church: Pentecost will complete the glory of this favoured Day.
Jesus’ apparition to the Eleven, and the victory he gains over the incredulous Thomas,—these are the special subjects the Church brings before us to-day. By this apparition, which is the seventh since his Resurrection, our Saviour wins the perfect faith of his Disciples. It was impossible not to recognise God, in the patience, the majesty, and the charity of Him who showed himself to them. Here again, our human thoughts are disconcerted; we should have thought this delay excessive; it would have seemed to us, that our Lord ought to have, at once, either removed the sinful doubt from Thomas’ mind, or punished him for his disbelief. But no: Jesus is infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness. In his wisdom, he makes this tardy acknowledgment of Thomas become a new argument of the truth of the Resurrection; in his goodness, he brings the heart of the incredulous Disciple to repentance, humility, and love, yea, to a fervent and solemn retractation of all his disbelief.
Jesus says to Thomas: Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed! Such is the great truth, spoken by the lips of the God-Man: it is a most important counsel, given, not only to Thomas, but to all who would serve God and secure their salvation. What is it that Jesus asks of his Disciple? Has he not heard him make profession that now, at last, he firmly believes? After all, was there any great fault in Thomas’ insisting on having experimental evidence before believing in so extraordinary a miracle as the Resurrection? Was he obliged to trust to the testimony of Peter and the others, under penalty of offending his divine Master? Did he not evince his prudence, by withholding his assent until he had additional proofs of the truth of what his Brethren told him? Yes, Thomas was a circumspect and prudent man, and one that was slow to believe what he had heard; he was worthy to be taken as a model by those Christians, who reason and sit in judgment upon matters of faith. And yet, listen to the reproach made him by Jesus. It is merciful, and, withal, so severe! This Jesus has so far condescended to the weakness of his Disciple, as to accept the condition, on which alone he declares that he will believe: now that the Disciple stands trembling before his Risen Lord, and exclaims, in the earnestness of faith: My Lord! and my God! oh! see how Jesus chides him! This stubbornness, this incredulity, deserves a punishment:—the punishment is, to have these words said to him: Thomas! thou hast believed, because thou hast seen!
Then, was Thomas obliged to believe before having seen?—Yes, undoubtedly. Not only Thomas, but all the Apostles were in duty bound to believe the Resurrection of Jesus, even before he showed himself to them. Had they not lived three years with him? Had they not seen him prove himself to be the Messias and Son of God by the most undeniable miracles? Had he not foretold them, that he would rise again on the third day? As to the humiliations and cruelties of his Passion, had he not told them, a short time previous to it, that he was to be seized by the Jews, in Jerusalem, and be delivered to the Gentiles? that he was to be scourged, spit upon, and put to death? (St. Luke, xviii. 32, 33)
After all this, they ought to have believed in his triumphant Resurrection, the very first moment they heard of his Body having disappeared. As soon as John had entered the Sepulchre, and seen the Winding Sheet, he at once ceased to doubt,—he believed. But, it is seldom that man is so honest as this; he hesitates, and God must make still further advances, if he would have us give our faith! Jesus condescended even to this: he made further advances. He showed himself to Magdalene and her companions, who were not incredulous, but only carried away by natural feeling, though the feeling was one of love for their Master. When the Apostles heard their account of what had happened, they were treated as women, whose imagination had got the better of their judgment. Jesus had to come in person: he showed himself to these obstinate men, whose pride made them forget all that he had said and done, and which ought to have been sufficient to make them believe in his Resurrection. Yes, it was pride, for Faith has no other obstacle than this. If man were humble, he would have Faith enough to move mountains.
To return to our Apostles:—Thomas had heard Magdalene, and he despised her testimony; he had heard Peter, and he objected to his authority; he had heard the rest of his fellow-Apostles and the two Disciples of Emmaus, and no,—he would not give up his own opinion. How many there are among us, who are like him in this! We never think of doubting what is told us by a truthful and disinterested witness, unless the subject touch upon the supernatural; and then, we have a hundred difficulties. It is one of the sad consequences left in us by original sin. Like Thomas, we would see the thing ourselves: that alone is enough to keep us from the fulness of the truth. We comfort ourselves with the reflection that, after all, we are Disciples of Christ; as did Thomas, who kept in union with his brother-Apostles, only he shared not their happiness. He saw their happiness, but he considered it to be a weakness of mind, and was glad that he was free from it!
Now, it was for the instruction of persons of this class, that our Lord spoke those words to Thomas: Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed. Thomas sinned in not having the readiness of mind to believe. Like him, we also are in danger of sinning, unless our Faith have a certain expansiveness, which makes us see everything with the eye of Faith, and gives our Faith that progress which God recompenses with a superabundance of light and joy. Yes, having once become members of the Church, it is our duty to look upon all things from a supernatural point of view. There is no danger of our going too far, for we have the teachings of an infallible authority to guide us. The just man liveih by Faith. (Rom, i. 17) Faith is his daily bread. His mere natural life becomes transformed for good and all, if only he be faithful to his Baptism. Let us imitate St. Thomas in his confession, and acknowledge that, hitherto, our faith has not been perfect. Let us go to our Jesus, and say to him: “Thou art my Lord and my God! But, alas! I have many times thought and acted as though thou wert my Lord and my God in some things, and not in others. Henceforth, I will believe without seeing; for I would be of the number of them, whom thou callest blessed!”
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we, who have celebrated the Paschal solemnity, may, by the assistance of thy divine grace, ever make the effects thereof manifest in our lives and actions. Through, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth, with Thee, in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
The sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. John. Ch. xx.
At that time: When it was late that same day, being the same day of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose, sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he said to Thomas: Put in thy fingers hither, and see my hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord and my God! Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing you may have life in his name.
We have said enough about St. Thomas’ incredulity; let us now admire his faith. His fault has taught us to examine and condemn our own want of faith; let us learn from his repentance how to become true believers. Our Lord, who had chosen him as one of the pillars of his Church, has been obliged to treat him with an exceptional familiarity: Thomas avails himself of Jesus’ permission, puts his finger into the sacred Wound, and immediately he sees the sinfulness of his past incredulity. He would make atonement, by a solemn act of faith, for the sin he has committed in priding himself on being wise and discreet: he cries out, and with all the fervour of faith: My Lord and my God! Observe, he not only says that Jesus is his Lord, his Master, the same who chose him as one of his Disciples;—this would not have been faith, for there is no faith where we can see and touch. Had Thomas believed what his Brother-Apostles had told him, he would have had faith in the Resurrection; but now he sees, he has experimental knowledge of the great fact; and yet, as our Lord says of him, he has faith. In what? In this, that his Master is God. He sees but the Humanity of Jesus, and he at once confesses him to be God. From what is visible, his soul, now generous and repentant, rises to the invisible: “Thou art my God!” Now, O Thomas! thou art full of faith! The Church proposes thee to us, on thy Feast, as an example of faith. The confession thou didst make on this day is worthy to be compared with that which Peter made, when he said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God! (St. Matth, xvi. 16) By this profession, which neither flesh nor blood had revealed to him, Peter merited to be made the Rock whereon Christ built his Church: thine did more than compensate thy former disbelief; it gave thee, for the time, a superiority over the rest of the Apostles, who, so far at least, were more taken up with the visible glory, than with the invisible Divinity, of their Risen Lord.
As an appropriate prayer, wherewith to close the day, we offer to our readers the following beautiful one, wherein the Gothic Church of Spain celebrates the mystery of the eighth day,—the Octave of Easter.
O Son Begotten of the Unbegotten Father! thou again invitest us to honor this eighth day, on which thou didst permit thy Disciples to see and touch thee. The Sunday, though made before the other days, becomes the Eighth by following the seven preceding it. It was on this day that thou didst rise from the Tomb and Death; it was on this same thou enteredst where thy Disciples were assembled, and, the doors being shut, didst honor them by thine inestimable visit. Thus didst thou adorn, with a mystery well suited to each, both the beginning and the close of the Pasch; for thy Resurrection struck terror into the soldiers that guarded the Tomb, and thy apparition confirmed the doubting hearts of thy Disciples. We, therefore, who possess the knowledge of all these mysteries, beseech thee to grant, that the faith whereby we believe, may present us before thee, after this life, free from sin. May neither sloth engender, nor indiscreet prying foster, any misgiving of doubt or error concerning thee. Preserve in thy holy name them thou hast redeemed by thy precious blood. Let our souls contemplate thee: and vouchsafe to enter into our hearts. O thou, that, on this day, didst appear in the midst of thy Disciples and greet them with Peace, abide ever with us. Thou didst breathe upon them the Spirit of Life; grant us the consolation of the same Holy Spirit.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. I, Dublin, Edition 1871.
Put forth thy hand, and mark the place of the nails, Alleluia:
And be not incredulous, but believe. Alleluia, Alleluia.