Lent, Holy Week, Easter 2000 have had a particular significance for me, not just because of the Jubilee Year, but something more personal - the death of my mom three months ago.
I'd like to begin by telling you about something that happened at her funeral. At the vigil service (after the rosary, prayers and testimonies) we came up as individuals to pay our last respects before the coffin was closed. I invited my Aunt Katie to come first. As my mom's only sister, the death was a particular blow to her. Standing before the casket, Aunt Katie asked me, "Phil, do you smell the roses?"
"A bit," I said. There was a spray of roses a few feet away.
She said, "No, the odor of roses coming from your mom's body."
I did not, but I do feel God gave Aunt Katie a sign. Just five days before mom's death the relics of St. Therese had visited Stanwood. Those of you familiar with the Little Flower know that roses are a sign of her intercession.
I have not had great, extraordinary experiences, but many people have. One study indicated that four out of ten people in the United States have had some experience they would call "mystical," inexplicable in purely natural terms. But they are often reticent to tell others (even to people very close, like their wife) because of what folks might think about them.
I tested that once on a group of priests. I told them about the four in ten study and asked if any had an experience they consider supernatural. Three had. When they told us, we were impressed, but at the same time maybe a bit envious. Why did they had those experiences and not us?
We have a similar situation in today's Gospel - altho what is at stake is so much greater. The Lord appeared to some of the apostles, but not Thomas. Maybe he felt a little envy. When the other apostles told him, he replied that he would not believe them. He wanted his own sign.
Before Jesus could give him the sign, something else had to happen. If we read today's Gospel carefully we can see what is the first requisite: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..." (Jn 20:22)
For us too that has to be the first step. This Jubilee Year Pope John Paul made a gesture which caught the world's imagination. He asked forgiveness on behalf of all Catholics. This was dramatic, sweeping. After all there are so many of us. And we have done so many things wrong throughout history. Perhaps more important, considering our numbers, we could have prevented great evils (slavery, the Holocaust) if we only would have been true to Jesus' teaching.
Today I am not going to ask forgiveness for all Catholics. But I would like to ask forgiveness for myself as your priest. In my five years at Holy Family I know have done things which have hurt some of you, perhaps even turned you from Christ and his Church. Sometimes people have said to me, "Father Bloom, it seems like you are angry with me...or... you don't care about me." I am not going to make excuses, but I do get distracted. Forgive me for those times of inattention, if I have neglected you.
When young people tell me about some problem with their parents, I try to listen, but also I say to them, "God has chosen exactly the parents he wanted you to have." The same applies to our parish family. God has chosen the priest, the spiritual father he wants you to have. It is me. If because of me - or some parishioner - you feel a distance from Christ and his Church, I ask your forgiveness. We need you at Holy Family. If you have gone away, we want you back.
Some of you come with doubts and questions about your faith. You are not alone. St. Thomas had his hesitations. Jesus does not ask you to leave behind your reason, your questioning mind.* But before you can even examine the evidence, you need to free yourself of those hurts, maybe even anger, resentment which may be clouding your mind.** You need to forgive - and to ask for forgiveness. Then come to Jesus - find a place in his open wounds.
*Highly Recommended Reading on Faith & Reason: Fides et Ratio by Pope John Paul II
**An example of a mind clouded by resentments is Alfred C. Kinsey, the "principal architect of the sexual revolution." He cultivated the public image of a disinterested biologist, but a very different picture emerges in his biography A Public/Private Life by James H. Jones. Failure to forgive and accept forgiveness is an obstacle not only to faith, but to honest inquiry and communication.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Greeting for Hispanic News
Holy Family Pilgrimage