2nd Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020
Have you ever wondered how poor Saint Thomas must feel every year as we listen to St. John’s gospel and hear the passage about his reluctance to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and as we celebrate unofficially “Doubting Thomas Sunday?”
The passage proclaimed today that describes the meeting between Thomas and the risen Jesus is rather unique. It’s provided for our reflection every year on the very same day – the Second Sunday of Easter – the concluding day of the Octave of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday. What this means is that at the very heart of our Easter celebration, the Church annually offers for our consideration the story of one of Jesus’ closest followers who doubted – who just didn’t have it within his ability to believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. … Surely we would’ve believed differently than Thomas if we were in his situation, don’t you think? … Who knows?!
Let’s look at Thomas a bit more closely in order to come to a better understanding of his significance in our lives as people of faith.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Thomas in today’s gospel is that for some reason, he wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them following his resurrection. What’s more, when Thomas eventually reunited with the disciples and was told about the Risen Lord, his faith seemed to waiver as he asserted that he wouldn’t believe the disciples unless he had proof – unless he could probe the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his own hand into Jesus’ side.
Who knows how and why St. Thomas became so contrary in the midst of the miracle of the resurrection? Yet, one thing is clear. In not being with the community of believers, Thomas missed the opportunity to encounter the risen Jesus. And because he missed that opportunity – because he was alone and apart – his fears and doubts likely intensified. … “I will not believe, unless … .”
Sometimes the best of us wonder about our relationship with the Church and ultimately with God, don’t we? … The past weeks of confinement, confusion and pain have given us all good reason to question many things – from why we’re not able to join together in worship – to how such a global pandemic could have ever occurred in our modern world – to why so many innocent lives have been taken – to where God is in the midst of all that’s taking place. … Sometimes, like Thomas, we just can’t seem to make sense of what’s happening or to bring ourselves to believe in the promises of our faith for one reason or another. As a result, we often feel guilty because of our inability to believe or more confused.
Yet, look carefully at Jesus’ response to Thomas in today’s gospel. While Jesus lifted up and called “blessed” all those souls who had not seen him as raised from the dead and who still believed, nowhere in his encounter with Thomas does Jesus berate him or diminish him because of his doubts and struggles. On the contrary, Jesus engages Thomas – loves and accepts him as he is – and sends him forth with the other disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God and build the Church of Christ.
Jesus’ acceptance of Thomas – with his doubts and questions – is a sign not only to the earliest believers but also to Christians throughout the ages – including me and you – that the mercy of God, poured forth into our world from the cross of Jesus, trumps the brokenness and sin of our world and our lives.
In these difficult days, some have contended that the Church has become far too focused upon God’s mercy and that God is trying to teach us a lesson through this health crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are many things that we should all learn from these difficult days, the most important lesson that we can learn is that our salvation is not achieved by our perfection and righteousness but by God’s merciful intervention into our lives.
It is hardly by accident that Saint John Paul II designated the Second Sunday of Easter in which we annually focus upon the struggles of Saint Thomas as Divine Mercy Sunday. Saint John Paul II shared these words just a few years before he died during his final visit to his beloved homeland of Poland, to the Shrine of Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose vision of God’s great mercy laid the foundation for today’s celebration, “Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind.”
Brothers and sisters, today’s gospel reminds us of a great saint who simply could not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead until he had proof. Yet, despite his doubts and questions and struggles, Thomas was given a way forward – not because of what he did – but through the mercy and love of God.
May the same truth sustain us as we look for hope in these difficult days.