1 Peter 1:3-9
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
On this extraordinary and festive day – the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, the canonization of Popes John XXII and John Paul II – perhaps some images, even more than discourse, can highlight the distinctiveness and excitement of today.
I think of a smiling, roly-poly Pontiff, on the balcony of St. Peters on that exciting evening of the opening day of the Second Vatican Council. In this "moonlight speech" at the end of the day, Pope John encouraged the crowd, "…When you go back home now, you will find your children: give them a hug and say, ‘This is a hug from the Pope.’ You will find some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word: ‘The Pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.’"
Or who could forget that 1984 Time magazine cover photograph, a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The younger man attired in a black turtleneck sweater, jeans and white running shoes, the older man dressed in a white robe with a white skullcap on his head. They sat up close and personal, facing one another. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the older Pope John Paul II. The pope held the hand that had once held the gun whose bullet had pierced the pope’s body.
And still another image is Pope Francis, who, with 61 other priests about to enter confessionals for the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, surprised the master of ceremonies by kneeling publicly and "going to confession" himself!
So often in the Gospels Jesus shows astonishing patience with his disciples; time and again we are reminded how they are "slow of heart," yet he lovingly encourages (Latin cor + agree, the word means to "act from the heart"!) them. We are reminded that faith is a heart thing, that believing is a reality rooted in the heart. Yet we so often think of faith as a cerebral activity, a head trip. Maybe my questions and my doubts and my sense of God’s absence are not signs of my lack of faith, but rather the way the life of the spirit moves. Let’s join doubting Thomas on this special day, eventually realizing that we may say, "I won’t believe until I see," but knowing and experiencing deeply, "I won’t see until I believe!"
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.