April 10, 2015

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), April 12, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Thomas places his hands in Christ's wounds.
(Click here for today’s readings)

Little did the disciples suspect how Thomas would react when they told him everything that had happened in his absence. Surely he would be thrilled to know that Jesus really was alive, and eager to hear all that Jesus had said and done when he appeared to them. How could they have expected him to refuse to believe them? It didn’t make sense.

It’s impossible to imagine that Thomas’s exchange with the other disciples was as brief as may appear from a single verse in the Gospel. After all, a whole week passed between the two scenes we have just read. And what a miserable week it must have been for Thomas, as the others kept trying to persuade him. There was probably plenty of frustration to go around on both sides.

This is the stuff of advice columns. It’s the way you feel when you see pictures on Facebook, of a bunch of your friends having a great time together—without you! I found a wonderful New York Times article from 2013 that described the experience this way: “Here’s Our Great Wedding/Barbecue/Trip to the City in Which You Live. Too bad you couldn’t be there. Oh, right, you weren’t asked.”

Was Thomas suffering from a sense of rejection? At the very least he had to wonder, “Why them and not me?” He was not just any disciple, you know. He was one of a small hand-picked group, the Apostles. He was singled out then, and now? Just left out. How could this happen to him?

Then would come the second-guessing, the self-doubt, wondering where he fit in now, etc., etc., and finally the digging in his heels, the “I’ll show them!” attitude, the ultimatum.

There is a curious parallel to this in the Acts of the Apostles. Today we read, at the end of Chapter 4, that the community of believers had everything in common, and that no one among them was needy. But at the very beginning of Chapter 6 we find this: “The Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” Somebody was being left out, treated like second-class Christians. This was not acceptable. A solution was found quickly, however, which showed that the Holy Spirit was at work.

For Thomas, too, the solution came quickly enough. At the end of that wretched week, it was Jesus who “showed him.” He literally showed him his hands and his side, but more importantly showed him the very nature of faith.

If only seeing is believing, faith in Jesus would have disappeared from the face of the earth within the first century. But seeing isn’t believing. Not everyone who saw Jesus, who witnessed his miracles and heard his preaching, believed in him.

St. Paul has a famous text about the nature of faith: “And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” and a couple of lines later: “Faith comes from what is heard” (Romans 10:14 and 17). Jesus puts it this way: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John in his Letter goes beyond blessedness. He writes, “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.”

Faith in what? First and foremost, in the Risen Christ, and then in everything that Jesus ever said and did and told us to do.

Today, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, that means in particular: believe in his mercy, believe that no sinner is ever excluded from seeking God’s mercy. Recognize the grace of Christ’s forgiveness, submit to it, receive it humbly, and practice it.

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