I. Excuses! Excuses! Excuses! Like the people in Jesus’ day, we also can come up with some very creative “excuses” for not committing ourselves more wholeheartedly as disciples of Jesus. “Set your hands on the plow, and never look back“ (Luke 9:62): Jesus highlights total commitment as the foundational requirement for following him. Even family bonds cannot take precedence over one’s bond with God. For some people, conversion is as instantaneous and dramatic as it is for Elisha in today’s first reading (I Kings 19:16B, 19-21). For most of us, however, it is a lifelong process of growing in trust and help, and requires a supportive, compassionate community.
Pope Francis expresses well the whole-hearted demand of our relationship with Christ: “being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like Christ, acting like Christ, loving like Christ; it means letting Jesus Christ take possession of our life and change it, transform it” (General Audience, Wednesday, April 10, 2017).
II. Dhukrana “Remembrance:” Thomas, also called Didymus or “twin,” was the only apostle who went outside Roman Empire to preach the Gospel. According to Eusebius, a historian, Thomas had preached in Parthia (North-Eastern Iran) and India. He was martyred in India in 72 AD and was buried at Mylapore, India. But major parts of his remains were moved to Edessa, Greece and Italy on July 3, 232, and Syro-Malabar Catholics celebrate this feast as Dhukrana which means “remem-brance”. The people of Kerala in South India (where Fr. Sinoj was born) fervently believe that it was Thomas who evangelized them. He is presented in art with a spear, the instrument of his martyrdom.
Witness of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Traditionally it is believed that St. Thomas witnessed the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. A text attributed to Joseph of Arimathea called “The Passing of Mary” gives a legend that, when the Blessed Virgin Mary was near death, angels appeared to all the apostles asking them to visit Mary in her last hours. All of them, except Thomas who was in India, witnessed her death and burial. Thomas visited the tomb of Mary which he found empty; it is believed that Thomas witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven. In the pre-Tridentine and medieval art, Thomas is often depicted with the sash of Mary.
III. Freedom to Worship: Mass on July 4th! The four freedoms in our Bill of Rights are: Freedom of Religion (the freedom to worship), Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Assembly. Our country is certainly struggling with these freedoms presently. May we never take these freedoms for granted. As we celebrate Independence Day, I invite you to exercise your freedom to worship this Thursday, July 4, by participating in our 9:00am Mass (holiday schedule: no 7:00am or 12:05 noon Mass).
IV. Happy Birthday, Fr. Sinoj! Born the youngest of five children, Sinoj Esthappanu (Stephen) Pynadath was born June 30, 1983. As a Herald of the Good News (HGN), he is part of the Kerala Province, and was assigned to Saint Stephen Cathedral in June of 2018. We are glad to have Fr. Sinoj here! He is a joyful priest!
V. “A Cheerful Heart is Good Medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). In the 1300s, surgeon Henri de Mondeville reportedly told jokes to his patients in the recovery room. Laughter exercises the face, shoulders, diaphragm, and abdomen. When the good thoughts deepens, the heart rate rises, and the blood flow increases and transports more oxygen; endorphins are released, pain thresholds are raised, and some studies suggest that even our immune system is boosted. When we laugh, others laugh too! Laughter is a contagious, highly effective, non-pre-scribed medicine. It has no side effects, and no one is allergic to it. We can use the tool of humor to induce laughter for our health, healing and general sense of well-being. Have you had your dose of laughter today?
“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
— Luke 9:62