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“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nail in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’” (John 20:24-29).

Jesus was crucified around 30 AD, and the Gospel of John was written sometime around 100 AD. John’s community was struggling to keep faith in the face of persecution, the absence of Jesus, and the realization that Jesus’ return was not imminent.

Despite the joy we feel as we celebrate Easter, we can’t close our eyes to the fact that the world can be a cruel and unjust place. We are surrounded by examples of poverty, neglect, abuse, and apathy. We can become burdened by these things and lose touch with the loving God who created all things good and sent Jesus to redeem us from our sins. When this happens, doubt can be like a black cloud hanging over us.

The story of “doubting Thomas” is used to communicate this limited thinking. Thomas wanted obvious, empirical evidence. He was unable to let his present experience penetrate his grief over the loss of his rabbi and friend.

Unlike Thomas, we will never “see” Jesus and put our hands into his nail marks. However, we are asked to have faith in Jesus Christ present in the world. Our thinking about faith can never be limited to nailmarks. We can see Christ at work in the world in all of our positive encounters, and we can use that to inspire us to greater belief. We can believe that we were created beautiful and holy. We can believe that things can change for the better, no matter how hopeless a situation may appear.

Let us use this Easter season to respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe in him and to accept the peace that the risen Jesus gives to us. God wants nothing more than for us to live fully and respond to his call – to break free of doubt and proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

When have you experienced doubt? How were you able to overcome it? How did it affect your faith?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Share this table prayer with those you will eat with on Easter Sunday.
Pray together:

 
Christ has risen! Alleluia!
Loving God, you who create all things
and generously give us all we need,
we praise you and thank you for being present with us now
as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son.
Thank you for accompanying us on our Lenten journey;

please be with us during this Easter season, and always,
as we strive to live as disciples of your Son.
May the breaking of bread, today and every day,
remind us of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ,
who died to atone for our sins
and rose again so that we, too, may rise
and live in your presence forever.
O God, bless this food and we who share it,
and be with those who cannot share it with us.
We ask this in the name of the same Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ has risen!
Amen.

 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:1-9).

John’s account of Jesus’ Resurrection speaks to the tremendous power of personal witness. Mary visited the tomb, mostly likely to anoint the body, since Jesus had been buried quickly to avoid ritual defilement for Passover, but she found the tomb empty. She did not keep this information to herself but ran to Peter and the other disciple—the apostle John. Mary was not afraid to tell them what she had experienced and act on what she had witnessed. She believed in what she saw and shared it. Such trust in God is at the heart of personal witness.

We don’t know when our moment to witness to God’s love for all people will present itself. We don’t know when we will be asked to speak the truth that others may find challenging. We can, however, draw courage from Mary’s willingness to speak and to act.

We are the powerful personal witnesses to Jesus in the world. Like Mary, we are invited to continue to speak the truth of Jesus, never knowing when our words and witness might draw others closer to God.

How do you witness your faith in your daily life? How can you be a better witness to your faith?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Loving God,
you are extravagant in your love for us.
Help me to experience your love in a deeper way
as we enter Holy Week
and reflect on your passion, death, and resurrection.
I thank you for your willingness
to love us unto death, death on a cross.
Give me the grace to act on impulses
to love with generosity and exuberance.
Amen.
 
Adapted from RENEW International’s LIVE LENT! Year B, available in our online bookstore.

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“At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of the bystanders who heard it said, ‘Look, he is calling Elijah.’ One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put in on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.’ Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:33-39)

Coming from Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” can be a troubling statement because it seems to undermine his faith in his own mission and in a God who loves him. Doesn’t Jesus know what’s to come? Doesn’t he believe that God is always with him?

We can all relate to Jesus’ cry. In our times of trial, we, too, may want to call out to God and ask why we have been abandoned. The times in our lives when we feel most vulnerable are often the times when God seems distant.

Jesus’ cry is taken from the beginning of Psalm 22. The anguish and pain of feeling alone pours out in the opening lines. Nevertheless, the author of the psalm does not turn away from God. On the contrary, he says, “you (God) are holy” (Ps 22:3) and “All the end of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him” (Ps 22:27).

The psalm as a whole is not a cry of great despair and obstacles, but of great hope and faith.

Jesus does not deny the profound physical and emotional pain of his situation. But through his pain, he challenges us to identify with the author of the psalm who cries out to God and praises God in the same breath. This challenge goes to the heart of one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith: simultaneously loving a gracious God and not denying the sorrows of human life.

We are invited to remember that while pain is real, it is also temporary. But the love God has for us is eternal.

When have you experienced love coming out of a painful situation? What did it teach you?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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