Feast of (doubting) Saint Thomas.

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How many consider that Thomas’s absence was part of a divine plan? Thomas’s absence from originally seeing the risen LORD separates him from the group. His questions are a contrast to the disciple’s testament, Thomas questions both the LORD and His Apostles. Thomas challenges a cult mentality by introducing doubt and reason, and by demanding proof. By way of the doubt and the questions and the demands, Thomas proclaims both the LORD has truly risen, and My LORD and my GOD. With his doubts Thomas declares the presence of the Easter Christ. Thomas proclaims a Christ of the resurrection.

But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

An Easter Christ is the Christ that as revealed to Saint Paul, and Paul also was known for his doubting Christ. Paul was the persecutor of Christians who encountered the Easter Christ in the road to Damascus. That encounter was after the Ascension. Peter also had his doubts about the LORD, his were famously acknowledged by the crowing of a rooster at the crucifixion. Interesting how the LORD revealed Himself at the transfiguration with the inner group of disciples. That is Peter’s experience, an experience that is challenged by the crucifixion. Then there is Thomas, also one who walked with Christ. Finally Paul, who persecutes the followers of Christ. All three are challenged, yet all three proclaim Christ as truly risen, and Christ as LORD. With questioning minds they make their declaration.

Thomas’s doubt bridges that Christ of the Transfiguration and the Easter Christ. Thomas did walk with Christ as a disciple, and then proclaim the Christ of Easter. The same with Peter. For Paul a Christ after the resurrection. For us? Ours is a Christ of the resurrection, an Easter Christ. And our doubts, do we have them? Are we any less human than the other three? Thomas’s doubts serve a purpose, as does any inquisitive mind. Ours is a God given ability to question, to ponder the LORD.

When Jesus encounters Thomas’s doubts and questions the Lord does not chastise or condemn him. Jesus asks that Thomas seek the answers to his questions. He says to place his hands into the wounds of Christ. Jesus has Thomas explore the risen LORD. The doubts are a natural part of the human experience. Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, and he does so. He declares Christ truly risen. Jesus also tells that it is better that those who do not see believe. Not to see, and yet believe is go have faith. Both are important, naturally seeking and being guided simply by faith. For certain I can probe this planet and see the works of Christ. I can also follow Christ in faith when I am blinded by darkness. Perhaps it is the first, the questioning, that feeds and strengthens the second that is faith. (Faith & Reason)

Peter and Paul (recycled from 2012)

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The celebration of these two disciples seems to be a fitting summation of this past weeks readings.  It was Saint Irenaeus who was instrumental in guaranteeing the Apostles gospel message received from Jesus was faithfully transferred to the following generations. It was Paul that delivered this message outside of his own culture to a gentile people eager to understand Jesus teachings.It was Peter who was first instructed to tend to Jesus’s flock.  I continue to notice that Jesus did not preach to only one group, or one nationality.He preached to all who were receptive to Gods word. The teachings applied to all, and I keep taking away the message that the underlying message was that God is available to all, that Jesus continuously opens up the God of the Israelites to all people.

Peter and Paul,”Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church..” Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter is the one that walked with Christ while Paul’s experience was with the Easter Christ. Peter started out as a disciple, yet frequently stumbled in his faith. He grew into the faithful preacher of the Gospel and defended the word with his life. Paul started out as a persecutor of Christianity ,”Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” . Paul ends up preaching and defending this teachings of Jesus.Peter and Paul start out in different paths, yet reach the same destination.They enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow path. Peter who delivers this message to its original and intended Jewish  recipients ; and Paul who also delivers the message to its intended Gentile people.

A gospel faithfully preached to all nations as Jesus intended. Paul who seeks Peters guidance in delivering this gospel to a people likely unfamiliar with Hebrew culture, and Peter who counsels his colleague.Most importantly Peter who accepts Paul as a disciple even though Paul originally was his persecutor.Just as Jesus continued to accept Peter though he denied him three times!  It is through these traditions that this message was delivered to me.It was made available to me as it was to members of all nations. It was delivered faithful to Christ’s teachings. It also rests on a firm foundation so that this tradition can continue.

Bread and Wine (Corpus Christi)

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Corpus Christi, a solemnity that reminds us that Jesus is always near us. We are never abandoned or alone. The LORD is always present in the tabernacle, the ciborium, the chalice, and in us. Always present, and truly present. That is the foundation of the Church, it is what Jesus taught us.(Martin Luther argued, Luther is wrong.) “I am the bread come down from heaven.” “I am true food, and true drink.” “Eat of my body and drink of my Blood.” Never abandoned, and always amongst us. The Eucharist is true food, a necessity to sustain life. Certainly a necessity to sustain a life in Christ. To recognize the Blessed Sacrament as a necessity is to be reminded of the command “take and eat.” Though the gifts, bread and wine, are presented by humanity; the sacrament is instituted by God. The second person of the blessed Trinity.

Wander back through the Gospel. Go back earlier than the Last Supper. In the multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Jesus took the loaves, said a prayer and blessed it. He then gave it to the Apostles so that they might distribute it to those that hungered. Priests today take the same bread, say the prayers, and deliver the consecrated body and blood of Christ to those that hunger. It is no wonder that the disciples recognized the risen Lord in the breaking of bread. That bread, His Body, was central to His ministry. The sacrament did not have its origin’s in the Last Supper, it began when the Infant was placed in a feeding trough. Food and Drink, essential for a journey. Bread and wine, consecrated by the Priest. The importance of the Priest. Saint Francis once commented on this during a time when corruption was common. He reminded people to respect priests because they deliver the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi. The Eucharist. The true Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ. A sanctuary candle reminds us of GOD’S presence.

Bread is food for a journey and the word Companions has its origins in travelers with bread. Bet Lehem, [bet ˈleχem], “House of Bread”; Bethlehem. The journey is important. Pilgrimage or Exodus. “I am the true bread come down from heaven” refers to the Manna that sustained Gods people on their journey. The Eucharist does the same on ours. Eucharist as food for a journey is commemorated in the Corpus Christi processions that are associated with this Solemnity. How often does Jesus appear to disciples that are walking, traveling from one place to another? Jesus is always present to them no matter where they might be. As one can travel from location to location physically, one also journeys spiritually. From sinner to saint. A discalced congregation is a religious congregation that goes barefoot. A reminder of the journey, and its difficulty. A journey, a procession. This procession is also a proclamation, something to remember. Reaffirming. Discalced is often a vow. (Broken English, flickering thoughts. )

One is certainly reminded if the difficulty of the journey, can one forget the procession that led to a Corpus hung on a Cross. Good Friday. The journey was a climb. Exhausting, Jesus fell three times. They gave him vinegar for His thirst, a bitterness that He refused at the end of the journey. He hung on a Cross. Look at the gift Jesus gave us, as we walk the journey. The way of the Cross is a journey. The bread of life, come down from heaven. The Resurrection.

An Angel speaks (and someone listens)

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Ever wonder what an angel’s appearance might be like? Ever been curious how they come down to earth? What, I wonder is the sound of their voice? Angels are strange to describe, and all sorts of interpretations have been crafted in word and paint and wood and stone and clay. None is accurate, nor inaccurate, prove or disprove an angels existence, yet they do exist and make themselves known from time to time. They are present more than people ever admit. They are the most highs messenger and message. Heavenly.

Mary likely described the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the Apostles (the apperance at the Annunciation) as they would have not yet been on the scene. I wonder what their reaction might have been. (?) I also wonder at which point in their journey with Mary the story was told to them. Was it during Christ’s ministry ,or was it after the Resurrection ,or after the Ascension, or after Pentecost? I wonder what questions they might have asked.

The Apostles world was much more in tune with angels than mine. They knew them and understood them intuitively, they didn’t try to rationalize or dissect them. They were part of life. The age of science had yet to descend upon them. Their dialogue was different.

The Angel Gabriel tells young Mary that the news she is to receive is a blessing. Hail Mary, a salute. The LORD is with you, a blessing. When Mary told the story, she must have told the Apostles the angel’s name, and those Apostles knew the meaning. Gabriel means “the LORD is with you.” Joseph was told the same. They knew what they have received was from God, and that it was good. They would have heard that message before. It is the message of creation. God creates, and saw that it was good. Certainly they must have heard the story of Genesis, did they recognize that the story was being repeated again?

I wonder how many times that angel has reappeared over the centuries. I wonder if anyone would recognize the message. I have no doubt that Mary was receptive to the voices of a variety of angels. Through prayer she learned to be receptive to them, and she kept an open ear to listen for their voices. She must have called out and listened for a response. Her eyes must have been open to discover their path. She was open to angels and their messages, she didn’t shut them out. She heard of them appearing to others both in scripture and as she journeyed throughout life. They were part of her world. She didn’t try to rationalize them or create or disprove them. She understood angels and accepted them, I wonder what would happen if we did the same?

(today mention an angel and people smirk, say you’re a witch and they will play your game)… . .

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

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A couple of days ago I rambled on about an Irish Saint and an Irish-American celebration. Today is the feast of Saint Joseph, and a day that is particularly celebrated in Italy and by Italians worldwide. If I rambled about the national celebrations of Patrick in food and drink, Josephs day should be treated in the same regard. In Italy this is the Feast of San Guiseppe and the word that I think deserves some attention is FEAST. Feasts are celebrated. An interesting twist is that Josephs day always occurs in Lent but it has developed its celebration per that season. One of the highlights of this feast day is the Saint Joseph altars that are constructed, and they are filled with a combination of religious items such as statues and an abundance of food. The altars are tiered to represent the trinity with Joseph at the top. The rest of the altar consists of breads and pastries baked in shapes that highlight Christianity.

It is an altar of abundance, but it is an abundance of thanks to Saint Joseph for answering the prayers of the Sicilians during a great famine. The food gives thanks, it is also used to help feed those in need. It is a feast truly in the spirit of Christ. The altar also is a true altar, it is not simply a banquet. Tradition dictates that the altar be adorned with images of loved ones, and that it contains prayers of petition. The altar feeds both body and soul.

“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

The Feast of Saint Joseph always occurs in Lent, and it is a food fest, but it is one that is respectful of the seasons fasts and abstinence. It also is an old celebration that dates to the middle ages, that is important because the Lenten season was considerably stricter centuries ago. While there is a copious amount of food on that altar, there is no meat. It is true to the season. Like Saint Patrick’s Day in America with its corned beef and cabbage, Saint Joseph’s feast day has a couple of food specialties of its own. The first acknowledges both the season of Lent and Josephs trade. That dish is Pasta con le Sarde, pasta with sardines. It features the fish to meet Lents requirements and is prepared with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs represent the sawdust of the carpenter, and they are highlighted on this feast day. The second part of the meal is the dessert, and Sicily is famous for their deserts. For his feast day Saint Joseph gets a special desert made in his honor, Zeppole di San Giuseppe!

Finally, this special day has one more food item associated with it, the fava bean. That was the bean that sustained the Sicilians, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, during that drought so many years ago. The beans are often packaged in little bags with holy card or medal to be given to the hosts guests. The reminder is that a house with fava beans in their cupboard will never go hungry.

Why did I outline this food celebration of Saint Joseph without discussing that blessed Saint so much? I think it is because it highlights the honored tradition of celebrating Saints in festive ways, and festive ways that involve food and drink. Saint Joseph’s feast day goes back centuries and is steeped in tradition. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of families and that should be remembered. Saint Patrick’s feast in America, even though it is only a memorial, only goes back a hundred years or so. Granted it tradition gets a little rowdy, but it still does fit in with tradition if the SAINT is honored. Feasts like the Feast of San Guiseppe should be celebrated as a feast. That’s important, it’s a just dessert.

I included the little quote from the Angel that spoke to Joseph as he slept, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home and for him to accept the Child she was carrying. It gives reason for the celebration, Joseph was obedient to that Angel. He was obedient to the LORD, and accepted what the LORD had planned for him. In embracing Gods plan Joseph accepted bot the joy’s and the sorrow’s and even things he could not yet understand. He listen to, and placed his trust in the LORD. He was grateful for all the LORD had given him as the people of Sicily are grateful for Joseph’s intercession during a time of need. He helped turn a famine into a feast. Is their any greater reason to celebrate than that?

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16   Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29  Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22   Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a  Lk 2:41-51a