Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Sunday - St. Thomas Sunday

The Sunday after Resurrection Sunday is aptly named as New Sunday of St.
Thomas Sunday. The fact of Jesus Christ being alive, after being crucified,
would have been hard for anyone to accept. "St. Thomas, one of the twelve,
called the Twin or doubting Thomas, was not with the other disciples, when
Jesus came." He was the only one absent, among the eleven. On his return he
heard what had happened but refused to believe it. In essence, St. Thomas
decided to suspend his belief until he had seen for himself the nail prints
in Christ's hands. "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails,
and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his
side, I will not believe" (Jn. 20:25);

The Lord came a second time; He offered His side for the disbelieving
disciple to touch, held out His hands, and showing the scars of His wounds,
heralded the wound of disbelief. Christ said to Thomas, "Reach your finger
here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My
side. Do not be unbelieving, but be believing" (Jn. 20:27). But when St.
Thomas saw Jesus, he needed no more proof. When Thomas realized that what he
had heard about Jesus Christ's resurrection was true, he breathed out the
greatest confession of faith of the New Testament "My Lord and my God!"(John
20:28).

The Holy Bible does not mention that St. Thomas had put his hand in our
Lord¹s side. But there is a strong traditional faith that St. Thomas had put
his finger in the wound scar of nail and the side of the Lord. Thus Saint
touched the blood and flesh of our Lord, all the other Apostles rushed to
St. Thomas and kissed his hand which touched our Lord¹s blood and flesh.
This incident is the basis of our ³Kai Muthu² soon after the Holy Eucharist.
The faithful kisses the hands of the celebrant, who has handled the flesh
and blood. (Probably for the same reason we kiss the hands of Bishops, when
we meet and greet their graces).

This beautiful piece of a meaningful tradition has been reduced to mere and
meager ritual today in many of our Churches. For some unknown reason today
our priest use crosses and they mechanically touch the forehead of the
faithful to bless. More so, many priests perform this act with laxity,
carelessly and absentmindedly. Many priests make some Church announcements
concurrently. Some of them shout at the faithful for breaking the line-up,
while performing this act. Some pass commands and orders at that time. The
Lord¹s Apostles rushed to St. Thomas and kissed his hand which touched our
Lord¹s blood and flesh. Does our faithful ever get that feeling in such
environment.

Dearly beloved, do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen
disciple was absent. He came, he heard, he touched and he believed. It was
not by chance but in God's providence. In a marvelous way, God's mercy
arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his
master's body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas
has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he
touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our
faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ's
wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection. The same is
expected when we kiss the hands of the celebrants.

The veneration of the priest's consecrated hands, reverently kissed by the
faithful, has always existed in the Church. It is noteworthy that during the
persecution of the first centuries, one particular outrage to bishops and
priests consisted in cutting off their hands so that they could no longer
perform the consecration nor give blessings. Christians used to go find
those amputated hands and keep them as relics with preservative spices.
Kissing the priest's hands is a delicate expression of faith and love for
Jesus whom the priest represents. The more faith and love there is among the
people, the more they will venture to kneel before the priest and kiss those
³holy and venerable hands², in which Jesus lovingly makes Himself present
every day.

Jacob P. Varghese

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