We are all familiar with last week’s Gospel and how it reminded us that after the death of Jesus the disciples remained locked in the room where they were gathered in fear. Thomas, one of the twelve, was not present when Jesus appeared to them and so the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord. Thomas declared to them that “unless I see the marks of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side I will not believe.”
Now on this the Third Sunday of Easter the Gospel recounts the travels of two of Jesus’s other disciples who were going from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. As they were engaged in conversation Jesus joined them on their journey and began to walk with them.
As we travel on our own Emmaus journey do we ever contemplate having Jesus by our side supporting us as we go? In these difficult days with such uncertainty and isolation I find I am having more frequent discussions with God. He’s a really good listener, doesn’t interrupt me and doesn’t question me or judge me on my opinions or decisions. It helps to talk things over with a friend who’s by your side. You can feel like a burden has been lifted or that it’s okay to step back and sort things out. The best of all is that you know if you make a mistake your friend isn’t going to leave you.
I felt that way about the readings and how they started me thinking about signs and why I look for them and what do they mean to me personally in conjunction with my faith. There’s the first signs of spring with the renewal of nature, the geese heading south for the winter as the temperatures begin to drop, the phases of the moon and how it effects the tide, and the signs of the zodiac and how ones’ horoscope may or may not impact your day. What about the beauty of the first snowflakes that fall and how we marvel that like each of us no two is alike? The bible is full of signs which may have various meanings to each of us on any given day. I believe that God surrounds us with signs. It’s up to us to find the gift of their meaning in our life that God is bestowing on us. Please take a minute and let me share with you two very different signs that occurred in my life. My Rainbow Sign As the rain beats heavily on my windshield and I struggle to find my way in heavy traffic with zero visibility I recall the Lord’s promise that He will never destroy the world again by water.
As I continue to drive into the storm I see that off in the distance the sun is breaking through the clouds and again I call to mind the promise made to Noah. I start to search the skies … I wonder where is the rainbow God? Surely there is one somewhere. I think, am I like Thomas and wonder do I need to see a sign too? As I pray that God will guide me safely through the storm I know that I do not need an outward sign to believe and at that moment I look in my rearview mirror and I see the most wondrous of all rainbows that God has gifted to me. I weathered the storm but did I have faith that He was with me before I saw the rainbow? Yes, but I was comforted and reassured by its presence. Is this what Jesus meant when he asked Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” A Sign of God’s Presence The following is a eulogy that was given during a family funeral liturgy and that I have been given permission to share: Today, we are feeling a grief that is breaking our hearts at the loss of our Dad. We his family and friends and caregivers need comfort. So I was thinking if my Dad were physically here, what would he do to help us?
I realized that he would want to share with you something that happened to him last week, to tell you a story of comfort and faith.
All of his life, Dad had great faith in God. He believed in his faith, he practiced his faith, and he shared his faith with others.
But he was human, like each of us with fears and doubts and questions. About three days before he died, Dad asked me a question. He said, “What will happen?” Just three simple words spoken with a weak voice as he was very ill. Being a nurse, I immediately thought of all the physical symptoms that a person experiences at the end of life, and I replied to him as a nurse, but as gently as I could. I merely said that he would be weaker and sleep more but we would not leave him and we would help him, give him medications, etc. He listened but looked at me and shook his head. Then he asked the question again, “What will happen”?
I again avoided answering and talked about what was happening then, that God had granted him time, to say goodbyes or to tell people things he had kept in his heart. He nodded, but I knew that I was not comforting him, not giving him what he needed, NOT answering his question. He was asking something simple yet I realized, so profound.
So finally about 6 hours before he died, we were alone in his room, and I was sitting on his bed holding his hand and he was sleeping. Suddenly he woke up and opened his eyes wide. He let go of my hand and I noticed that he was looking above and behind me, His mouth started moving, forming words that I couldn’t understand as if he was having a conversation. He raised both arms with outstretched hands.
Now my Dad was a superstitious Irishman and I inherited some of that superstition so it took all of my courage to look behind me and above me. But of course, I saw nothing because what my Dad saw was just for him, not me. Then I looked back at his face and his eyes had changed. Instead of eyes filled with pain and fear, his eyes were just filled with WONDER and SURPRISE. He kept talking with arms raised for about 30 seconds, then gently dropped his arms and closed his eyes. I was positive that his question was answered, that he was given a gift, a glimpse into what was to come and he was comforted as I hope because of this story, that you will be comforted too.
Two totally different journeys in my life of which there have been many and God willing there will be many more to come. I don’t know where I will travel, but for certain I know that I will not be alone. Lord teach me to remember that you have given me many signs and blessings and that I don’t have to search for things afar to know that You are with me with every step I take. Prayer for My Journey You are my Savior O God You walk always with me on my journey Guide me along the path I have chosen Teach me to accept without question Even as I question what I cannot accept On the days when the path seems especially difficult I seek comfort in You O my God Help me to feel Your embrace and as I close my eyes and open my heart Help me to listen to Your words and find the signs As they provide the comfort that I seek