4/7/13, Experience of God

Acts 5:12-16, Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19, John 20:19-31


Introduction


Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska, August 25, 1905, in central Poland, then in the Russian Empire, and she died October 5, 1938, Krakow, Poland.

She is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a saint, and is known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.

Throughout her life, she reported a number of visions of Jesus and conversations with him, about which she wrote in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul .  Saint Faustina’s life and writings have attracted a large following of devotees, among them, Polish born Pope John Paul II who canonized her in April of 2000. 

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter.  It is listed on the liturgical calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It came about because of the particular devotions and life of Helen Kowalska, nun, mystic, and visionary.



Reflection


  Wouldn’t it be something to actually see Jesus? 

Unfortunately, the people of Israel didn’t have iPhones. So nobody was snapping pictures,  I would love to know what Jesus looked like.  Two thousand years ago, Jesus‘ family, the Apostles, and his disciples, accompanied him during his ministry throughout the country, in the towns of Nazareth, Bethsadia, Bethany, Cana, Capernum and Jerusalem. They saw him every day.  They knew what he looked like.  They knew the sound of his voice.  With their own ears they heard his words on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the Kingdom of Heaven... Blessed are the meek...  Blessed are they who mourn...”  

With the exception of John the Baptist, the people didn’t appear to recognize that anything out of the ordinary was happening when Jesus walked by.  It was just an every day, ho-hum experience.

Yet, with their own eyes the people watched Jesus  as he restored the sight of the blind man, Bartameaus. They saw him heal the sick, and raise Lazarus from the dead.  Eventually, some of them began to understand Jesus to be the one about whom the prophets had spoken, the long awaited Messiah.  They were looking forward to the time when their subjection to the oppressive Romans would end, and they would at last belong to the new Kingdom of God, which the prophets hat foretold, and about which Jesus had spoken in parables.  

But now Jesus was dead -- falsely accused, publicly beaten, nailled to a cross, and having suffered a torturous and humiliating death at the hands of the Romans.  All of this was done with the blessing of the Sanhedrin of the Temple. Jesus’ followers saw that too.   

So, what were they to think about the miracles Jesus did?  What about the Kingdom? What were they supposed to make of their dashed hopes now?  Might they suffer the same fate?  What about the disturbing rumors that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb where it had been placed... and Mary Magdeline’s assertion that she had actually seen him?  ...talked with him even?  Was she was out of her mind?   The Apostles were stunned, confused, and hiding in a locked room.  And then, suddenly there he was,,,  Jesus in the flesh, standing among them, his body still bearing the wounds of crucifixion.  “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he breathed upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit...”   

       The apostles must have shot some quick glances back and forth at one another.  Was this real?  Were they losing their minds too? 

Such a totally unfortunate time to be absent from the the room!

We all know Thomas’ reaction when he finally returned, and the Apostles told him what had happened while he was gone...  “We have seen the Lord!”   Sometimes I think Thomas gets a lot of undeserved indignation about his reaction.  

A week after this appearance, Jesus appeared among the Apostles again.  This time Thomas was there.  He called Thomas forth and asked him to place his finger in the wounds of his hands, and to place his hand in the wound on his side.  Jesus so mercifully and kindly provided the exact criteria which Thomas had stated that he needed to support his belief that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.  Thomas was then so moved as to respond with the words, “My Lord and My God”.

  Have you ever had a personal experience of God?

God reaches out and touches us in many ways.  He knows how to teach us.  He knows what we long for.  He knows how to speak your language and mine.

Experience has shown me that committed belief is usually supported by a certain amount of reasonable evidence.  For example, there is a saying that seeing is believing.  In the gospel reading the Apostles saw, and they believed.  Belief can be supported by logistics, or an accumulation of facts.  There are other ways to support belief where there is neither “seeing”, nor any logical foundation.  For instance, belief can come about by prayer.  If one calls out to God and God “responds” with a credible answer, then belief is certainly possible.  

  However, the Gospel message tells of a better way.  Jesus asks Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” 

This suggests to me that however helpful it is to have knowledge and evidence, it is neither knowledge nor evidence which is important.  Faith is important --  pure, simple, trusting, relentless, unflinching, faith in God.  Accumulations of knowledge and evidence often cause people to think more highly of themselves thereby inflating ego and becoming counterproductive.  Whereas faith credits everything to God

God can be known by us because God’s Holy Spirit lives within us.  God recognizes God’s own self in what we see, and He shares that vision with us.  We therefore recognize God’s attributes manifested in the world outside of ourselves:  His goodness, His truth,  His beauty, His mercy,  His justice, His kindness, His creativity.  We love with God’s love. We live in God’s life.  We exist because God is.  

The prophet Jeremiah says that the day will come when we will no longer need someone to teach us about God -- that God Himself will teach us, will carve His law upon our hearts.                                                                                                              

Huston Smith says that metaphor and symbol are the language of the spirit. Jesus used parables to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Scriptures use myth and stories to convey Gods Word.

The Church uses the language of sacraments and shared community life to manifest the life of God.

You and I see and absorb all these things and build experiential knowledge of God during our life’s journey, ...and, there are times when, for unspeakable reasons, and with Divine mercy, God makes Himself known to us in very special ways, as He did to Thomas in today’s Gospel reading, as He did to John while he was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, as He did to a young Polish nun, St Faustina, over 80 years ago. 

St. Paul says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we will see everything with perfect clarity.”

God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah says, “If you seek Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me.”

For those of us who might be living in the darkness of faith alone, who have not experienced a vision of God, ...who long to see the face of Jesus, but were born 2000 years after the fact, ...or who, like the apostle Thomas, have simply picked the wrong time to step outside the room... Let us keep our eyes on the horizon.   God is faithful.  Our reward is promised,  ...and indeed, it may be hiding right in front of our faces.

 

A little prayer...


 I have watched clouds drifting slowly across the sky.

I have listened to the whispering of trees

and studied their shadows upon the grass.

I have named the birds who rested on my fence,

and all the flowers that grew alongside the road.

I have memorized the silhouettes of the mountains on the horizon

and seen Your hand in them all.

One glance, a whisper,

a single word from You...

If You were to say my name, Lord,

or if I could sense a movement in the air as You passed by...

This what I long for.

It is my heart’s desire.


by Marcia Lee