Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Through Tangible Realities, God Reveals Himself to Us"
Homily for
the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

22 May 2011
Year A 

It’s probably a safe bet to say that most of us here, at some point in our childhood, had an imaginary friend. You can admit it; there is no shame in that! A person totally constructed within our minds that belongs to me and no one else – my friend and no one else’s. A person who listens and never talks back! And all the while we had this imaginary friend no one ever dared to question – let alone ourselves – the existence of this person. How amazing it is to think that simply believing that something we can bring it into existence. The problem is that we grew from children to adults and, as St. Paul once said, we “did away with childish things.” It was easy to simply believe that a person could exist solely in the mind. We have passed from that stage of our human existence to the “prove it to me” stage. The stage in life that demands evidence – especially when it comes to matters of faith. For example, our patron St. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus until he placed his own hands into the nail marks and wounded side of the Risen Lord. And in today’s Gospel, Philip turns to Jesus and says: “show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Scripture scholars all agree that Jesus is speaking about the sight of the Father as a vision of faith. But the Apostles still find our Lord’s words very mysterious and difficult to grasp. This is why Jesus upbraids Philip for not yet knowing Him even though His works are those that are proper to God – walking on water, controlling the wind, forgiving sins, raising the dead, and so on, all of which Philip and the rest of Twelve had witnessed. Jesus scolds the Apostle because He did not recognize His divinity through His human nature. What Jesus is trying to say to Philip and the others is that shown you, through my works. All of God’s manifestations throughout Scripture have come by way of a medium and are only a reflection of His greatness – all of which culminate in the highest expression of God’s greatness, in the Person of Jesus Christ. In its document, Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council highlights this point:

“He did this by the total fact of his presence and self-manifestation – by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by the sending of the Spirit of truth. He revealed that God was with us, to deliver us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life.”

Throughout his pontificate, in his catechesis, his writings and homilies, Pope Benedict XVI has said time and time again that we are living in the era of a new form of atheism. This is not atheism in its proper sense – the denial of the existence of God. This type of atheism carries with it the “may be” factor where we find many people practicing some form of religion because there “may be” a god and they do not want to be left out, just in case. And at the same time, if there turns out to be no god at all, then perhaps one might learn some life lessons or gain some practical knowledge. Others might even consider to have been wasted time.

The mind is such a powerful thing that one point in life we could believe that another person existed solely in our imagination and then later in life almost outright deny the existence of God because He cannot be seen. What we forget is that the existence of that person – that imaginary friend – is based upon what we have already experienced in relation to another human being. We have taken that which we have seen and heard and so on from other human beings and crafted in our minds another one – solely for ourselves. So, God does the same thing in order to show that He is not some faraway abstract entity. It is through that which we can touch, taste, hear, smell, and see that makes God known to us. Think about it – we hear the words of Scripture, the words of so many prayers and blessings – the prayer of absolution in confession, the words of consecration for the Holy Eucharist – we can smell candles burning and incense rising up from the censor, we see the elements of bread and wine, oil and water, we can feel them on our foreheads and hands. God touches, quite literally, all five senses and by doing so He stimulates the mind and strikes us to the very core of our being – to our hearts. Thus, showing Himself to us, proving to us that He is no fairy tale, that His existence is not a matter of wishful thinking or a mere illusion. But that He is indeed real and that faith in Him is not a sign of weakness. Furthermore, it is the belief and the reality, that this God who touches the senses, that uses these tangible realities to make Himself known, emptied Himself by becoming a human being in order to enter into the reality of our existence, our daily lives, to be with us at every waking and sleeping moment, to fulfill the deepest desire of the human heart. Therefore, all of this is directed at bringing us into contact with the divine reality of God – with the Person of Jesus Christ.

We must not let this opportunity pass us by, to encounter the Lord here, in this Eucharist – through what we hear at Mass: music, the Scriptures, the homily, the blessings, the prayers, the bells, and so on – through what we see: gold chalices, bread, and wine – through what can taste by consuming the Sacred Host, in and through these tangible, sensory realities, Jesus shows Himself to us, He puts Himself into contact with us and raises us up to experience a foretaste of that heavenly reality to which we are all called. By experiencing this reality and by believing in Him, Jesus lifts us up out of the darkness of confusion, doubt and mistrust into His light of clarity, grace and truth.


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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