Pope Francis: The Danger of Being ‘Merely Philanthropists’

mixed media 205 x 185 x 80 cm
Doubting Thomas poking at Christ’s chest wound by Michael Landy (Picture: National Gallery)

Below I include Pope Francis’ reflections this morning on the Feast of St. Thomas offered during Mass in the Santa Marta guest house where he lives. The accompanying art by Michael Landy illustrates to me the dangers of “mechanizing” our experience of touching of the wounds of Christ:

“After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: He wanted him to wait a week. The Lord knows why He does such things. And He allows the time He believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. Jesus reveals himself with His wounds: His whole body was clean, beautiful and full of light, but the wounds were and are still there, and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, we will see His wounds. Before he could believe, Thomas wanted to place his fingers in the wounds. He was stubborn. But that was what the Lord wanted – a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord and was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side. He did not merely say, ‘It’s true: the Lord is risen’. No! He went further. He said: ‘God’. He was the first of the disciples to confess the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshipped Him.

And so, we understand what the Lord’s intention was when He made him wait: He wanted to take his disbelief and guide him not just to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity. The path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other. In the history of the Church several mistakes have been made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found by the path of meditation, and indeed that we can reach higher levels through meditation. That is dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return? Yes, perhaps they arrive at a knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the gnostics, isn’t it? They are good, they work, but they have not found the right path. It is very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbour.

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Jesus and the ‘Victorian Bushfire Tragedy’

From www.abc.net.au/news/photos
From www.abc.net.au/news/photos

David MacGregor, a pastor the Uniting Church in Australia, recently posted a wonderful sermon on Jesus touching and healing the leper (Mark 1:40-45). He used a spirituality column I wrote in January 2005 called The Sense of Touch to examine the experience of touch alongside the powerful images of people embracing each other amid the Victorian bushfire tragedy. Please continue you prayers for all those affected by the fires.

David serves at Indooroopilly Uniting Church in Brisbane and serves on the UCA’s National Working Group on Worship. Below is an excerpt from David’s sermon:

When the leper approaches Jesus, he is, in fact, going against the Law. This said that he should have called out to warn Jesus and the disciples that he was unclean and that they should keep away. Instead, in desperation, he comes to Jesus and speaks directly to Him. In his wretched state, he has seen in Jesus someone who could heal him – the question was did Jesus want to heal someone who was ritually unclean – who, some said, was leprous because of some sin?

Jesus, of course, wants to and reaches out and touches him – strictly speaking, making Himself unclean in the process. At once – immediately (how often do we hear that word in Mark’s gospel?! the leprosy leaves the man and he is healed. Jesus reaches out and touches him …

This past week, night after night on our TV screens we’ve watched footage of devastated bushfire victims hugging another victim close, folk – Kevin Rudd included, placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of a bushfire survivor. There’s something about touch.

Read David’s whole sermon here.