Sunday, April 7, 2013

Class Participation (2013-04-07)

This is my homily for  Sunday April 7, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[ Readings: Acts 5:12-16 |  Psalm 118 | Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 | John 20:19-31  ]

[__01]   We have just read the Gospel appearance of Jesus to the apostles, and to Thomas.  At first Thomas is absent. Later, Thomas is present.

What is the importance of our presence -- or our absence – physically?

Say, we are talking about a class tomorrow.  Tomorrow, Monday, you are I have a class. How important is our presence?

Maybe we need to check the syllabus, or class requirements. Does the teacher or professor grade us on “class participation”?

[__02]  Or, in the workplace environment – we might ask if the manager/supervisor notices our timeliness, our punctuality, our presence. If so, then being present is in our favor.

On the other hand, some of us may work in a different environment,  we may run the business …. Or teaching, we may run the classroom.  In such a situation, nevertheless, participation and punctuality are still important.

The student would notice, the customer would notice.

[__03]       How important is presence, is punctuality for Thomas the Apostle?

We might say .. well, not very … he missed the whole appearance and presentation by Jesus the first time.

We might wonder if Thomas will suffer some penalty – academically, professionally, spiritually – for his absence?

[__04]       Is this a setback?

In the journey of faith, the journey to know our Risen Savior,  yes the ABSENCE is a setback, a hindrance for Thomas.

Thomas is being told by the others – but he did not actually see or hear for himself.

[__05]      There is a value to “class participation”.   There is a value to presence.

Immediately after an absence, what would professors of Fairleigh Dickinson expect us to do?

The faculty expectation – the professor’s expectation is this.   They would expect
students are often expected to get up to speed by borrowing the notebook of a classmate – by finding out what was covered last week, what was the homework so as to be ready for this week.

Teachers, professors, as we know, have a syllabus, a timeline. And, if we were to miss a class, the professor would expect us to catch up by turning to friends or classmates.

This is not Thomas’s method.  Thomas really is not very interested in the opinions of the others.. of his “classmates”, or what is in their notebooks.

Thomas has his own ideas, his own “syllabus” and, probably, a very specific notion of what should be on the final exam.

In the person of Thomas, we see our own preconceptions,preconceived ideas, our own stubbornness reflected.

[__06]      What is the importance of our presence?   Say, in a lecture hall or classroom, at school, high school, or college.

In a classroom, we are also called to leave behind some of our preconceived notion. Yes, we are called to read, prepare..but also to be open to the teacher’s presentation of the material.

In such an environment, we learn not only by taking notes, or memorizing, but also by listening to the questions and comments of our classmates.

And, we risk … by asking questions ourselves.

We learn by observing the questions that we had not yet considered.

We also learn – and grow in our faith – by considering the questions and struggles of others – struggles of marriage, children, family, health, finances…

In a classroom, we also learn by contributing, by asking questions..even questions that might reveal that we have fallen behind.

In our prayer, we also bring our questions and confusion to God also.  

We participate in this when we admit our sinfulness.

This Sunday is observed as Divine Mercy Sunday in which Jesus

Jesus speaks explicitly about the forgiveness of sins in his name, through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.  Coming to Jesus in this sacrament, you and I would reveal times we have "fallen" or "fallen behind".   Yet, we are also know that God wants to strengthen us, with absolution and with forgiveness.

[__07]      Thomas the Apostle is only a little bit ready for this “class participation” and presence.

In this  Gospel, the Lord invited Thomas and you and me to leave behind our preconceived notions of where Jesus is …

He is not only in the Upper Room in a resurrection appearance. This is what Thomas wants ..what he “requires.” The Good News is that the Lord appears to him.

More importantly, risen from the dead, Jesus is present in in the Church, in mercy and love and in relationships…

[__08]       Jesus is also present when we try to imitate him. This is our class participation.

It means, for example,

·        _____ Seeking out, befriending someone who may be unpopular or ignored or isolated.

·        ______Avoiding harsh words, avoiding words and actions that can belilttle or demean others …. Even avoding demeaning words to someone who has actually done us something wrong, some injustice.

·         _______Listening to our parents  … doing what they say, even if they are not going to reward us immediately for following along. Our reward is the participation itself.

·         _______As a believer in the Risen Savior, it means also putting the wounds, the difficulties or needs others ahead of my own… putting their nailmarks before my own.

[__09]      Also, for Thomas, for you, for me, it means putting aside … postponing our desire to SEE, to KNOW … exactly what the final grade is going to be.

Participate ..

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says.

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.  (John 20:31)   [__fin___]     

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