July 3, 2015
Feast of St. Thomas, the Apostle
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The conversion of Thomas is the work of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is one of its first manifestations. Our Lord revealed to Thomas and to the apostles the power and grace of his Heart, as he will do later with St. Gertrude, Margaret Mary, and others. It is by the mysterious grace of his Heart that he has strengthened the faith of the apostles and converted Thomas. Until then Thomas did not believe in the resurrection and the others barely believed in it.
Thomas was not with them when our Lord showed himself to them. When Thomas returned, the others said, "We have seen the Lord." With emotion, they recounted our Lord’s appearance that confirmed the stories of the holy women and of Peter and John. But Thomas truly sinned by a lack of faith. The unanimous testimony of the others should have been sufficient. He considers them as visionaries and will believe only after having seen and touched. The others also had hesitated; yet, if their faith had been simpler and livelier, they could have helped Thomas.
Often, is it not the same for us? Is not our faith always shaky? At least, do we not act as if we did not believe? Is our faith in our work, in our vocation, in our mission firm, simple, and practical? If it were so, we would influence unbelievers and we would win a lot of souls for the Heart of Jesus.
Our Lord went along with the desires of Thomas; he wanted to overcome his stubborn disbelief. He comes in the midst of the eleven and pronounces his usual pious greeting, "Peace be with you.” His appearance should be enough to convince Thomas and to strengthen the faith of others. However, Jesus approaches the unbelieving disciple and said to him in particular, "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands, reach out your hand and put it in the wound in my side and be no longer unbelieving, but be a man of faith" [cf. John 20:27].
Thomas hardly dares to reach out his hand. Faith enlightened his heart. If the words of our Lord had so impressed the disciples at Emmaus, how should the sight of his wounds not move the heart of St. Thomas? He drew there directly from the sources of salvation, from the sources of faith and grace. He threw himself on his knees, and transported by joy and enthusiasm, cried as in a return of love, “Yes, you are my Lord and my God!"
This is the image of what our Lord wants to do through the revelation of his Heart. He wants to conquer the unbelief of humanity. He wants especially to revive the faith of the apostles. The revelations of his Heart are like the communication of his Heart with humanity. Jesus says to the whole world what he said to St. Thomas, "Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”
The grace of this day is a grace of faith and a special faith in the love of the Sacred Heart and our mission. Let us erase our former disbelief by humility and repentance. Let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus with St. Thomas. Let us recognize the hardness of our hearts. Let us repair the past by our faith and our works. Let us spend ourselves like Thomas in the apostolate and spread the love of the Sacred Heart and the spirit of reparation and immolation.
Yes, Lord, we believe in the love of your Heart and your designs of mercy on us and our works. Increase our still shaky faith. Thank you for all the manifestations of your Heart. Your mercy is infinite. You have supported us thus far; thank you! Enflame our hearts with love and zeal.
Leo John Dehon, The Year with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “Sunday After Easter: The Appearance to St. Thomas”
Oblation: The daily practice of offering oneself to God's will
In their Rule of Life, the Priests of the Sacred Heart state, “In founding the Congregation of Oblates, Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon wanted its members to unite in an explicit way their religious and apostolic life with the reparatory oblation of Christ to the Father for people” [#6]. Discerning how they can live this out in a constantly changing world, they admit, “We are bound to re-think and to find new expression for [our life’s] mission, its forms of presence and of witness” [#144].
With a fresh reflection on the apostle Thomas, who comes face-to-face with the risen yet still wounded Christ, John van den Hengel, SCJ, offers a new way to image a life of oblation and its consequences.
He writes, “Thomas would have a Christ without his wounds—a Christ who did not know suffering and rejection. For Thomas, the idea of a messiah does not include the degradation of the cross. In being invited to touch the wounds, even to put his fingers and hands into the wounds, Thomas was astonished into a new image of God in the death and cross of Jesus. The risen crucified one led to his proclamation, ‘My Lord and my God!’
“The resurrection does not remove the memory of the pain and suffering. The woundedness of life, all life’s struggles and suffering remain in the body of the risen one. The wounds are transformed; the signs of death become the signs of life. In his confession of the wounded God in Christ Thomas finally found eternal life.
“The recognition of the sacredness of our wounds, our fragility, our tenuous identities, calls for a new practice of reparation. In the context of today’s culture, reparation is not a repairing of some past or present wrong, it is more like a shaping of a new future: what love makes us capable of. The task of love is to build community. It seeks to overcome our isolation by throwing us into the work of reconnecting people.
“The world has become a fragile and fractured place. The shaky identities, the fear of the clash of civilizations, the trumpeted threat of terrorism, the fragility of the bond which keeps society together in the wake of massive immigration have made this world a more dangerous place. The Church show similar fragility: it suffers from a loss of faith and trust in each other, the inability to accept the woundedness of people and its leaders, the loss of participation.
“Reparation in this context is collaboration with the Lord to construct bridges, to remake bonds, to overcome alienation, to heal and reconcile, to create understanding, to break down fears. Hence, reparation is not individual but social: a ministry of gathering the excluded, the outcast, the sinner, the lonely and isolated. In this context the meaning of reparation comes closest to reconciliation and the work of social justice.”
John van den Hengel, SCJ, Faith in the One Who Loves Me: The Spiritual Legacy of Leo Dehon
Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth
Reflecting on Thomas’ confession of a wounded God in Christ, how can you accept the woundedness of people, especially those who are closest to you?
In the shaping of a new future [“what love makes us capable of”], the task of love is to build community. With whom do I need to reconnect? Among whom am I called to construct bridges? What fears do I need to face in order to create understanding and overcome alienation?
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the outcast, the sinner, and the lonely, whom society or individuals shun. Ask for the grace to understand and commit to the work of building community. You may find helpful this Prayer of Reparation from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
Father of mercy,
in Jesus, your Son,
you have offered us your abundant love.
He brought good news to the poor,
he welcomed and ate with sinners,
and he gave himself for us on the cross.
For all of this, O God,
we give you thanks.
we want to offer you our love today.
Send us into the world
to cooperate with Jesus’ work of mercy:
living in solidarity with people,
offering ourselves to them in their needs,
and becoming an effective sign
of your justice, your peace, and your love.
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update.
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