Last Sunday we had the familiar Gospel of Doubting Thomas. I’m always intrigued that the Gospel goes out of its way to refer to as “Thomas called the Twin”. Nowhere to my knowledge do we ever hear who Thomas’s other twin is. I wonder if that might be deliberate because it allows for a more profound interpretation that we are all potentially Thomas’s twin! In Ireland it is difficult not to be tempted by doubts about our Faith and our Church when almost exclusively, any public mention of faith or church is negative or cynical.
In the weeks leading up to Easter I participated in two very different celebrations, which challenged powerfully any temptations I might have to be Thomas’ twin. Firstly I concelebrated at a celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of The School of The Holy Spirit in Kilkenny. In 1977 Peter Birch, then Bishop of Ossory, set up The School of The Holy Spirit to cater for children with specific special needs. The school began in one room and had three children and one teacher. Forty years later the school now has 80 pupils in a new state of the art building on a site provided by the diocese and under the patronage of the local bishop.
Many of the Children who have come through the doors of the school over the last 40 years have lived with emotional disturbance and behavioural difficulties and more recently autistic spectrum disorder. There is a danger in our society that children with such life challenges can become defined simply by the narrow confines of their particular condition. The School of The Holy Spirit challenges that perception in so many powerful ways every day. All of this happens in the context of a Catholic Christian ethos. Reaching out to the most vulnerable within our society in an inclusive and compassionate way is what the Church should do best and it does. Doubt no longer but believe!
A few days after the school anniversary I participated in a memorable celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the parish of Birr in Co. Offaly. The parish holds these celebrations before Christmas and Easter. It was a Monday night and the church in Birr was packed to the rafters, at least 600 people. The music was great as was the presiding and the preaching. There was such a sense of celebration of God’s love and mercy and compassion. The congregation was a mixture of age groups and they had all freely come to participate. They came because they knew that this was the place they would experience a welcome, they would meet their God and their neighbours and together they could celebrate their identity as followers and disciples of the Easter Jesus. Doubt no longer but believe!
The parish priest woke up Sunday morning and, realising it was a beautiful and sunny spring day, decided he just had to play golf. So…. he told the curate that he was feeling sick and convinced him to say Mass for him that day. The parish priest headed out of town to a golf course about 40 miles away. This way he knew he wouldn’t accidentally meet anyone he knew from his parish.
Setting up on the first tee, he was alone. At about this time, St Peter leaned over to the Lord while looking down from Heaven and exclaimed,
“You’re not going to let him get away with this, are you?” The Lord sighed, and said, “No, I guess not.” Just then he hit the ball and it shot straight towards the pin, dropping just short of it, rolled up and fell into the hole. It was a 435-yard hole in one! St Peter was astonished. He looked at the Lord and asked,
“Why did you let him do that?” The Lord smiled and replied, “Who’s he going to tell?”
From An Ode to Life
What happened to death?
How terribly gone it is!
All the world is filled with Life today
For someone stepped on death
And Resurrection happened!
Someone stepped on death
A friend named Life walked in!