Today’s gospel tells the familiar story of the doubting Thomas. Thomas would not take the word of the other disciples that they has seen the Lord. He had to see for himself and touch the wounds of Christ otherwise he would not believe. A week later Jesus come to the disciples again and Thomas was present. Jesus invites Thomas to put his finger into his wounded hands and put his hand into open side. There is no need. Thomas falls on his knees before his risen Lord and all is made right. This gospel event is meant for us – we are those blessed ones who have never seen and yet believe in the Risen Christ.
But I’d like to say a few words about the short reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Paul gives us a glimpse of what the community life was like in those first years in the life of the church. The different communities were not large in number but they were noted for their care for one another, especially widows and orphans. It sounds like a far off Camelot, no one claimed private ownership of any possessions but everything they owned was held in common. This so-called early Christian communism certainly was not based on any economic doctrine; rather it was a spontaneous expression of Christian love and concern for all the members of the community. For the first followers of Christ their first priority was to provide for the needs of every member of the community, especially the neediest. If it were not then they were not faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus.
In his letter to an early Christian community St. James makes it quite clear that action follows from faith. ‘If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food and one of you says to them – go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what good it that? Faith without good works is dead. The faith of these early Christian communities expressed itself is the care they took of the neediest among them.
Through the centuries it has been the church that cared for sick and the poor, it was under the leadership of the church that hospitals and orphanages and centers of learning began. It made sure the needs of the neediest were met. Here in Toronto the Sisters of St. Joseph have provided our city with the rich legacy of St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Providence Villa and Sacred Heart Village and many other centres that care for the sick and the poor. Today these centers of care are now run by the government but the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph still vitalizes these centers of care.
You good people of St. Gabriel’s have always been faithful to the spirit of the early church. You’ve always done your best to respond to the many needs that come our way. Through the years you’ve sponsored six refugee families and have always been there for people in need.
As you know we live in an imperfect world, we live in an unjust world. Pope Francis, in the many sermons and talks he has given confronts the consumerism and injustices of our times. He names the reality that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor. He speaks out for the young generation who, for all their education, cannot find work. He speaks out for the working poor. Government policies that call for cut backs in spending never touch the budget for the military but always hit the monies meant for welfare and adequate affordable housing. Governments turn a blind eye to many of the social needs of our fellow Canadians. Life is unfair to so many people. Again, the rich get richer and the poor are poorer. Our Christian faith and the teaching of the Popes through the centuries call us to be socially conscious of the needs of those around us and if at all possible get involved in the social issues of our city and our country. Have a critical ear for all the statements of our politicians – shift the chaff from the wheat.
From ancient times we have been taught we are our brothers and sisters keeper. May we have the faith to see in the wounds of our risen savior the injustices done to the countless millions of oppressed and exploited men women and children in our prosperous world. We pray for a new expression in our day, in our country, in our church of that time when the neediest were our top priority.
We can’t change the world but we must not let the world change us. We will not let the consumerism, dog eat dog mentality, an indifference to the needs of the poor, worm their way into our life and faith values and our ways of relating to other and respecting the worth and dignity of every person.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for a new expression in our day, in our country, in our church of that time in the life of our church when the neediest among us were our top priority.