“Father, why don’t you start?” That’s what Teddy Merkle, my life-long friend since First Grade suggested as we stood at my dad’s grave. It happened to be my dad’ s birthday. He would have been 89.
It took us an hour to get to the cemetery because the afternoon traffic going out of the city was a mess on Easter Sunday. That really didn’t bother me. When you think about it, how can you be late for a cemetery visit? What’s the rush? Time really doesn’t matter here.
“Lead us off with a couple of Hail Mary’s, Father” Teddy instructed. We plotted through a decade of them, and finished with a “Glory Be.”
Teddy’s squeaky voice then broke into a familiar song. His rendition of Happy Birthday was done softly and prayerfully. I sheepishly looked around to see if anyone was around who could hear us. I didn’t want to disturb the dead either. When we finished Teddy said, “Your dad would have liked that.”
I replied, “I know. Thanks. That was a real nice touch.” I always admired Teddy’s thoughtfulness and spontaneity.
There was only one other person in the cemetery on this beautiful, sunny, sky-blue afternoon. A woman about my age, with blond hair, was standing about 30 yards away in the next section over. She had her back to us. For some reason she looked comfortable standing in what was probably a familiar spot.
She finished her prayers with a sign of the cross. Then she kissed her two fingers, bent over and blessed the headstones with a gentle touch.
She stood up and began to make her exit to the parking lot down the path right next to us. As she walked past, she stared at the grass. I took a close look at her and could tell that her mind was filled with many sentimental thoughts and memories. Tears were rolling down her face. She wiped them away with the edge of her gray cotton jacket. I guess some grief never goes away.
I said to Teddy, “Follow me.”
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Right over there. Come on.”
We made our way to the place where the woman was standing. I read the tombstone at my feet. It must have been her mom, dad, and brother buried in the spot.
“Do you know them Father?” Teddy asked.
“No, but let’ s say a prayer.” I answered. “They can use one today.”
We said three Our Fathers. I felt a lot better for the women who left 10 minutes ago crying.
It’s a gift and a blessing to hold someone in prayer, especially when they don’ t know it… but God does.
I bet the other disciples prayed for Thomas when he was missing from the upper room. Their prayers helped him to shake his doubt.
Are We More Like Thomas?
I always felt that Thomas gets a bad rap in the gospel. What I like most about him is discernment is that he is desire to be authentic and honest. He doesn’t just go through the motions. He needs real proof to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. When it comes to believing, Thomas has his personal requirements and time schedule. In the end, his faith is real and strong. I don’t fault him for taking his time.
The Word Among Us Catholic magazine shares the following reflection about “Doubting Thomas” who we encounter in today’s gospel passage. “The Gospel writers were wonderful theologians. They told us so many powerful stories about Jesus, like the feeding of the five thousand and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As they told these stories, they sought to convey deep theological realities like the Incarnation and the concept of being born from above through Baptism. All of these miracle stories and the teachings behind them are so simple that a child can make sense of them, but they are also so profound that we will never be able to reach their depths.
In today’s story about Thomas, John is telling us that the life of faith can be like a roller coaster—even for those who lived with Jesus and knew him personally. At first, the apostles did not accept the testimony of the women about the empty tomb. Forgetting Jesus’ promise that he would rise, Mary Magdalene thought that someone had stolen his body. The disciples on the road to Emmaus proved themselves slow to believe the Scriptures. And Thomas refused to believe unless he could see.
So here’s the lesson: even though our faith goes up and down, Jesus remains with us. He always extends his hand to us. He is always ready to draw us back to himself. He blesses those who do not see but still believe. We are the multitudes who love Jesus, believe in him, and rejoice with him (1 Peter 1:8). One way to smooth out the ups and downs of our faith is to let the word of God—whether it be the story of Thomas or some other scriptural story—dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). When you read and meditate on the Bible, you discover that the written word of God opens your heart to Jesus, the living Word of God. It inspires you, and it forms you. Over time, you become what you read as what you read fills you with faith that Jesus is the Messiah.
“Lord, open my ears to your word. Open my eyes to your glory.”
A Great Holy Week
Today’s bulletin contains some pictures from our Holy Week celebrations. I truly enjoyed the special opportunities for prayer and worship. Again thank you to all who prepared our liturgies and for who came to Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parishes for Easter.
If you happen to have celebrated Easter away from Immaculate Conception or St. Joseph this year, please remember our parishes in your Easter gift-giving. Our Easter collection is a significant part of our Operating Budget. Thank you for your generosity.