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I grew up with four brothers, no sisters. I worked for on a construction crew—all guys. Over the last thirty years, I have lived in a religious community, all men. I spent most of my life dealing with guys. This is what I learned: Whenever you see a group of giddy, happy, and overjoyed bunch of guys, take what they say, divide by two, and that is what you believe. If they are selling anything, do not buy it. I was on vacation with my father and brother. The came to me and said they were going to go out and have breakfast. They would come back and take me to Sunday Mass. They knew I had to prepare a homily and get my thoughts together. When they came back, they were laughing, jolly, and giddy. I asked them why they were so happy. They said, “We had a great breakfast.” I know they like food but not with such exuberance so I said, “Wait a minute, you guys didn’t eat breakfast. You went fishing without me and you caught really big fish.”
So Thomas returns on the day of the resurrection, and he walks into a room filled with laughing, giddy and overjoyed guys with a story. Of course, he doesn’t’ believe them. The next week when Jesus appeared, Thomas did something the other disciples did not do a week before. He did something much better. He said, “My Lord and my God.” It was at that powerful moment that Thomas became a believer. When we believe in the resurrection, that is when we become Christians.
While the church has been closed, my brother and I took the opportunity to refurbish the pews. But if the resurrection did not happen, if it were made up, a clever fable, then we wasted our time and resources. I have been with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary for over forty years and it has been great, but if the resurrection never took place then I threw my life away. St. Paul told the Corinthians if Christ did not rise from the dead, then all his efforts were just a waste. Everything hinges on the resurrection. So here is my question: What proof do we have of the resurrection? What do we have to go on? Let’s list them. First, we have an empty tomb. Second, we have a few giddy, happy, overjoyed bunch of guys. So far we do not much to go on, but Jesus provides a third proof: After Thomas declared his belief in the risen Lord, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who do not see and still believe.” That is us. That is our proof for the Lord’s resurrection.
My first assignment was in a parish in a small town called Avenel, New Jersey. The first thing we did when we staffed the parish was send out a questionnaire asking: “What do you want us to do for you?” Almost unanimously they let us know that they wanted a youth program for the high school kids. The request made a lot of sense. There is nothing for kids in the small town of Avenel, no malls, no playgrounds, no fields, no fishing, no horseback riding. The only thing the kids had to do was hang out on the street and we all know where that can lead. I said, “Fine, I guess.” So we
had lock-ins, trips to Six Flags, dances, retreats, car-washes… it was awful, but the kids really liked it. And the kids that joined were wild, bouncing off the walls. They were loud. I asked them, “What do guys eat for breakfast? A bowl of sugar cubes? When I took them on trips like Six Flags I would give them one rule. I figured they would remember one rule: “Do not die on this trip. NO Death.” We took thirty kids to Denver on the occasion of World Youth Day to see the Pope. We were all on the plane coming back. I was sitting down minding my own business and the stewardess came over to me and asked,
“Excuse me, Sir.”
“I said, “Yes,”
She said, “Are these your kids?”
I said, “I have never seen them before in my life.”
She said, “Tell them to take their seats and buckle up their seat belts.”
I said, “Okay.”
Before this group was started, I used to have beautiful thick hair.
About five years ago long after the trip, I got a Christmas card from one of the first members of the youth group. He sent me a picture of him with his arm around his wife and three children posing in front of their very nice looking home. This is what he wrote in the card: “Fr. Peter, if you didn’t come when you did, this picture would never have happened.”
We do not get to see the body of the risen Lord. We do not get to see the hands and the side. We get to see blessings. That is our proof. Sometimes things get hard and we are left wondering at times. Never stop believing. No matter how hard it may get. Know this, if you believe, the blessings will come.Back to All Homilies