The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Homily for April 11, 2010: Second Sunday of Easter

posted by jmcgee

The gospel today is about how challenging it can be to believe something you can’t see. 
How difficult it can be to accept something simply on faith. 

Well, this Easter season, nobody, I think, stands in contrast to that more than a young man named Jeremy Feldbusch.

8a.Jeremy_Feldbusch1.jpgOn April 3, 2003, Sergeant Jeremy Feldbusch was serving in Iraq, near the Euphrates River, about 100 miles from Baghdad, when he was hit with enemy shrapnel. His wounds were severe, and devastating. He was blinded in both eyes. He suffered traumatic brain injury. Doctors were convinced that he was going to die or, if he lived, he’d never be able to speak or function normally again. Jeremy was placed in a coma for six weeks, to minimize brain swelling. And he was kept alive on a ventilator. Five times, they attempted to remove the ventilator. Five times, he nearly died and had to be resuscitated. Finally, on the sixth try, they succeeded.

Recovering at an army medical center in Texas, Jeremy asked his father, “Why did God take my eyesight?” His father answered with a different question: “Why did God let you live?”

It’s a question that Jeremy would spend the next several months trying to answer. He returned home to Blairsville, Pennsylvania and endured several months of therapy. When he became well enough, he made two decisions. The first was to spend his life helping other wounded service members. He’s one of the founders of the Wounded Warrior Project.

But a second decision was even more meaningful. It was something he had thought about for a while before he was sent to Iraq – an idea that kept coming back to him again and again. But months of prayer and reflection – and the prayers of so many friends, strangers and family members – convinced him it was something he had to do. It was, he realized, one of the reasons why God let him live.

And so it was that last Saturday night, in a church in Pennsylvania, exactly seven years to the day after that horrific attack that took away his sight…Jeremy Feldbusch became a Catholic. In a profound way, even in his blindness and his disability, he is living out the great message of Easter… a message of resurrection and hope.

And, in connection with this Sunday’s gospel, it is a message of belief. Believing in what you cannot see. Trusting what you cannot touch. Just like St. Thomas.

Thomas has always been one of my favorite apostles. I like to tell people that I think he should be the patron saint of journalists; he always needs proof and substantiation for everything. Like a reporter, he has to check his sources. He’s the skeptic in the upper room – a realist and a pragmatist. But he’s a stand-in, really, for all who struggle to believe the unbelievable, and to accept as possible something impossible.

At one time or another, we are all Thomas. We all face doubts. Faith demands effort, especially today, when we find our faith and our trust in that faith sorely tried and tested.

But one of the lessons that Thomas teaches us is that faith also demands presence.
When I read this account, I can’t help but wonder: just where was Thomas? What was he doing? Why wasn’t he there? The other disciples had locked themselves away in that upper room because they were afraid. But what about Thomas? Was he thinking of leaving the apostles and resuming his old way of life?

What could possibly have been more important to Thomas than being in that room that night of the resurrection?

We might ask ourselves the same question. What are the distractions in our lives that call us away?

What keeps us from being present for Christ?

Thomas was overwhelmed when he encountered the risen Lord — so overwhelmed by what he saw, in fact, that he finally believed. “My Lord and my God,” he said.

Do any of us feel anything like that when we encounter Christ in our lives? When we feel a prayer being answered, a grace being given?

How about when we are confronted with the overwhelming miracle of the Eucharist?

All we can do is echo Thomas’s words: “My Lord and my God.”

Talk with people baptized into our faith last Saturday night, and most will tell you they do feel like Thomas — overwhelmed and awed.. And I suspect that Sgt. Jeremy Feldbusch does, too.

Discussing his conversion, he told a reporter recently that his vision is clearer since he lost his sight. I can’t think of a more beautiful testament to belief.

This is faith.

This is trust.

This is an unshakable certainty in things that can’t be seen.

And –as improbable as it sounds — it is a great gift.

I can’t help but think we would all be blessed if we could see our faith through his eyes — eyes that see beyond the darkness, to the great and never-ending light of Easter hope.



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Holy Cannoli

posted April 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm


An inspiring story and beautifully written. You might have a future in journalism. ;-)
If I may, perhaps the closing could have a tie-in by including a brief update on the life of Sergeant Feldbusch. Still, a very good essay.



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Peter Brown

posted April 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm


Nice homily, Deacon!
One nit to pick: it was not a “horrific accident” that took away Sgt. Feldbusch’s sight. Horrific, yes; but enemy shrapnel isn’t an accident.
Peace,
–Peter
[Good point, Peter! I'll fix...thank you! Dcn. G.]



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G. Arthur Vadero

posted April 11, 2010 at 5:09 am


Jesus, Himself, wants the homily to proclaim clearly the message of Divine Mercy on “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
Diary entry 570: “tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy.”
Diary entry 1521: “… Hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My Heart.”
Please revise your homily accordingly.
[I had the same thought, G. I plan to mention Divine Mercy at the end of my talk. Blessings, and mercies, to you this Easter season! Dcn. G. ]



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Judi

posted April 11, 2010 at 7:22 am


Last night as I strolled around my back yard with my little cocker spaniel, I looked up to see a clear sky filled with sparkling stars that seemed to go on forever and although God’s physical face is not seen, He couldn’t have been more powerfully present for me! I got up this morning to witness a beautiful sunrise and the stillness and freshness of the morning air against the background of the beautiful budding trees and sprouting lillies in my yard. As the gift of this wonderful morning air filled my lungs, my spirit and my heart were filled with awe and thanksgiving and proclaimed the same: My Lord and my God! Recently I saw one homeless man hand another a sandwich and as their eyes connected and each smiled, I saw Christ and His love and compassion. God is present so powerfully and so obviously for us in so many ways and gives us the spiritual eyes and ears to see and to hear…if we only use them!



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BobRN

posted April 12, 2010 at 1:01 am


Deacon Greg,
I think it’s a marvelous homily and a truly inspiring story, that certainly proclaims the message of Divine Mercy. With your permission, I would like to share it with those who recently entered this Church at our parish this last Eater vigil.
Mr. Vadero, I certainly agree with the spirit of your critique, and was disappointed that our own parish made no mention of Divine Mercy Sunday, please remember that the Church does not bind us to private revelations, even to those of the saints.



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BobRN

posted April 12, 2010 at 1:02 am


Typo in second sentance … obviously I meant THE Church, and not THIS Church.



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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted April 12, 2010 at 6:12 am


Go right ahead, Bob — thank you! Dcn. G.



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