Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 117(118):2-4,15-18,22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31.
The mystery of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not easy to understand. We should not be surprised if we cannot fully comprehend what this really means. The disciples of Jesus, the ones who travelled with him throughout his ministry, his passion and death, also struggled with what this really meant.
In the gospel passage this Sunday we join the twelve apostles who, afraid of the Jewish leaders, have locked themselves in a room. For the apostles the locked room becomes an image of their fear. When we are afraid we too lock ourselves away from people who can help us and perhaps even from God.
No walls can ever limit God’s reach. God reaches in and through our fear. The risen Jesus, on the evening of the day of his resurrection, visits the apostles and gives them his peace. He sends them out to preach the good news and to forgive the sins of those who want to believe in God’s great love.
Thomas could not believe that Jesus had in fact risen and requested that he too meet the risen Lord. If we believe, we too can see the Christ, not with our physical eyes, but with our eyes of faith. With Thomas we too are invited to proclaim that Jesus is both Lord and God and in this faith we have eternal life.
In the speech delivered on 3rd October 1932, on the occasion of the blessing and the laying of the foundation stone of the Society’s Motherhouse, St Agatha, Rabat, The Servant of God, Joseph De Piro, expressed the feelings mentioned in today’s gospel.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. (Ps 127:1)
Your Grace the Archbishop,
These divine words kindle in us total trust, without any reserve, in God’s help. Better still, they give us strong belief in the first movement of the Principal Agent. These words have already been chosen and placed at the beginning of the rules which guide the new Missionary Society which gathered us here for the benefit of its increase and prosperity. These words are no less fitting and worthy to be remembered to day.
As everybody knows, dear Archbishop, God’s works and not ours, bear contrariety as a sign and ornament. In the work we have before us and in our hands, for the span of about fourteen years, there have been so many difficulties, one after the other, that they could have exhausted any man. But, since it was God who set to work at the task, His servants never lacked courage. Moreover, like a firm and sweet breeze, God’s spirit, which always accompanied every difficulty, filled the sails of our poor boat, troubled by the waves.
Therefore, all those who can recognise all the circumstances, whether very close or from a distance, which during such a long time led to today’s solemn occurrence, can understand quickly and well the great happiness which fills us at this instance. We have reached the longed-for moment. We can now raise our voices in God’s name, as we are in fact doing, to invite you, Archbishop, to pray and call down from heaven your blessing on the foundation stone of this building. This building will welcome those who, with a generous heart befitting their youth, accepted the invitation they heard from on high to devote themselves to spread Christ’s kingdom on earth through their work. Yes, here these youths are prepared to be able to obey the order of the Lord of the harvest. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19); “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15).
“Go and teach all nations.” It is here, dear Archbishop, that we quickly feel humbled and confused when we think about how great is the need and how little our effort, still in its beginning, can offer
Archbishop, there are 1,700 million inhabitants in our world today. From these, a 1,000 million, that is much more than half of them, are still waiting the blessing of divine redemption; they still do not know anything about our Redeemer. Their ears have not heard the sweet name of Jesus who, through of the ministry of Paul of Tarsus, has already been sounding on our lips for two thousand years. Therefore, when we compare such a large number to our small fold, for which today we are beginning this building, no one has to wonder if our senses, our mind and our heart feel confused. To say the truth, the gospel event of the widow’s mite encourages us as we look up and put our hope in Him who is our most beloved Father. When God builds, those who build the walls do not labour in vain. We are also consoled to think of the truth that God’s power, which created everything out of nothing, and the power of the God-Man, who fed thousands of people from five loaves, has never changed, and is still with us for ever. The sign of the cross which you, the representative of the Vicar of Christ, Christ among us, put today on this foundation stone, descends like ointment with balm on all those belonging to our Missionary Society. It makes them grow in the spirit of their Father Paul and makes their hearts similar to his because, as St John Chrysostom says, the heart of Paul is the heart of Christ. Then he makes them grow in number so that, in the extensive missionary work, in the infinite enterprise for the salvation of the pagan world, even they have their share as soon as possible. This was the desire of the holy Pope Pius X, when he blessed this Society at its beginning. It is the ardent wish of the reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius XI, the missionary Pope, whenever he repeats his blessing on us. This is the object we long for. Here finally we would be able to say that we have heard and fulfilled the commandment of Christ, “go and teach.”
Dear Archbishop, I would be guilty of seriously offending you if I failed to take this opportunity to thank you today for all the help which you have given to our small work, from its beginning to the present day. We happily remember the state we were in, not properly constituted and surrounded by so many wants and defects. Today we are satisfied to admit that since its foundation, our work, moved and led by Divine Providence, has always found in you that fatherly help which we truly appreciate. The ceding of this very devout temple to us is not the least among these favours. We also add this present meeting and the honour you have been pleased to shower on us by joining us to bless and place this foundation stone with all solemnity. We feel we are fulfilling our duty when we thank you in the presence of such a gentle and courageous gathering of our admirers and friends, who know how to lift up their minds and know how to keep their heart full of the thought of God and of His works. We thank you now, and our gratitude is strengthened when it is united to that of all the others. We make ours the cherished words of our dear missionary Pope as we address them to you, dear Archbishop, in the most kindled wish that the Divine Founder of the Church always pours abundantly his graces on this diocese, so much beloved by your paternal heart.
Bless this foundation stone dear Archbishop and may this blessing, together with the blessing which the Father of all Christians was pleased to give us today, strengthen the truth that God has started this work; our hope in God’s help, which is so necessary, is strengthened. In the words of David, the royal prophet, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.”