By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
Over the last month we have been facing an uncertain future. There is a fear of our health system collapsing, our economy not just going into recession, but melting down. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment this past month. The normal forms of entertainment and leisure have been seriously altered or simply wiped out. We are abiding by state-issued shelter-in-place-orders. The things I took for granted as just something I can get off of the couch and do, I have to rethink. Before this all happened, most adult Americans were working at least 10 hours a day, spending more time away from their homes and families than the previous generation of Americans did. When we did actually come home to our families, in many cases, we had no time to think, pray, reflect, take care of ourselves. Now the country, really the world, is on a long sabbatical with no official end in sight.
In Acts, the apostles “devoted” themselves to this experience, to what we are going through right now. “Devoted” is used two times in this reading. This suggests to me that there was plenty of temptation to not live and share things in common. There were obviously a lot of things in their environment that challenged the apostles from living this way. Despite this, they chose to live communally, sharing things in common, pooling resources, praying together. This experience tested their faith and their strength; it stretched their limits. Community life is not as bucolic as it appears in a New Testament reading. As in Peter’s reading, they are like gold that is tested in fire. Through this process, the apostles became better people. They found new depths and qualities not seen before. This prepared them for the next steps that God called them to.
The Gospel reading is the story that spawned the cliché “doubting Thomas.” We all are Thomas. In this Gospel reading, Thomas demands empirical evidence that the Savior appeared. If Thomas was going to use a modern cliché, it would be “show me the money.” Thomas’ story is famous because it reminds us of our own lack of faith. I believe that faith is when good believes that it will reach out into the world, and despite the darkness, impediments and anything working against it, it will find another good. The environment we are living in today has not shaken my faith by this definition. I can still reach out and find other good. What has changed is how I do that. In contrast, some of our country’s leaders want to get beyond this experience quickly, simply to get the stock market healthy. They place some magical quality on May 1.
Beyond saying he would rise in three days, Jesus gave no itinerary to the apostles as to how, when and what dates he would appear to them. This Gospel reading challenges us not to simply forego empirical evidence as a pretext to having some inner-assurance. The Gospel reading challenges us to forego timelines. Just getting to May 1 will not change anything. However, your faith, your ability to reach out and find good in the world despite the challenges will.
Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.