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Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Jn 20:24

Poor Thomas.

Peter denied Christ – not once, not twice, but three times! And yet, somehow his reputation was rehabilitated. We don’t call him “Denying Peter,” for example.

No, he’s called the Prince of the Apostles!

And how about Paul? He initially persecuted and murdered Christians. We don’t call him “Persecuting Paul,” though, do we? Instead, we call him “Saint Paul.”

Poor Thomas.

He speaks just four lines in the entire New Testament, all of it recorded only in John’s Gospel. But each one of his statements is a haunting, memorable one.
The first time we hear Thomas speak he says, “Let’s all follow Jesus … so that we may die with him.” Incredibly daring! So much so that we could call him “Courageous Thomas”- the man willing to die with Jesus.

But we don’t.

He then says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” To answer this insightful question from Thomas the Lord announces one of his most famous lines: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” A profound teaching! For this, we should be calling this future apostle “Wise Thomas.”

But we don’t.

The last words from Thomas’ lips are “My Lord and my God!” These words have become the culmination of John’s entire Gospel. So, one would think we’d call him “Professing Thomas.”

But we don’t.  

Instead, he has been forever known as “Doubting Thomas” – all because of the one sentence he utters in today’s Gospel reading:
Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

And so, Thomas became forever remembered as the one who doubted because he had to see and even touch the wounds.

For him, the only real proof of the resurrection were the wounds – not a poetic description of them, but an actual probing of real, torn flesh.

Thomas was not able to deal with resurrection as a metaphor, or a collective wish-dream. For him, Easter jubilation is false if it forgets the grotesque brutality of the powers of death. For Thomas, evil must be taken seriously. His refusal to believe his friends is not the fruit of intellectual skepticism but rather is rooted in his total anguish.

The world’s evil is monstrous.

We read about and watch it every day – terrorism, starvation, human trafficking, homelessness, horrifying tortures of all kinds, COVID-19, and even the desecration of mother earth.

What Thomas is telling us is this:
If the Christ whom the world killed is not deeply scarred by it, there is no real resurrection.  

Today, in the world you and I live in, it is the community of believers, the church, that must testify to that very same thing. Only, for us, the wounds, the marks, the scars, are not the ones in Jesus’ hands and side, but rather the ones in our worshiping communities. So many of the stories we hear of people without faith include their disillusionment with a church that fails to make real what we profess.

Like Thomas so long ago, people today want to see the wounds.

They want to see and know the wounds in our hands and in our sides that are the unmistakable evidence that we are truly connected to the Jesus who was crucified, the Jesus with the gaping holes where nails were pounded into his hands, the Jesus who underwent horrific torture.

Again, like Thomas, they’re not interested in a Jesus who can’t relate to the wounds we carry in our own bodies and in our own hearts. They can’t identify with a Jesus who is above it all, pure and untouched and unconcerned with human pain and suffering.

Our God is a God with wounds.

That’s why the great grace called “mercy” is central to the Gospel of Christ Jesus and to our own individual lives.

Jesus tells us clearly in today’s Gospel reading that our own wounds are acceptable; our own wounds are hallmarks of efforts to love; our own wounds – even sins, if you will – are what puts us in a place where, like Thomas, we can identify with the Lord.

We have wounds too.

Each one of us.

We have terrible scars that we carry. We have hurts and mutilations and heartaches and shameful places that we deeply want to be touched and healed.
And what we see in this powerful Easter story is that all of these can be healed; all of these can be used by our God to lead us to a sense of identity with other wounded people; all of these can make us vulnerable to the possibility of personal transformation, of “resurrection” to a new way of living – the way of the Risen Lord who has gone before us beckoning, urging, pleading with us to follow.

Doubting Thomas is so important because he represents each one of us.
He waited a week to confront the Lord. We maybe have waited many years.
Thomas wouldn’t believe it until he saw and touched.

We usually won’t either – until we see with our own eyes people who call themselves followers of Jesus forgiving each other, until we see with our own eyes people who call themselves followers of Jesus refusing to live out of hate and fear, until we see with our own eyes people who call themselves followers of Jesus seeking revenge and stop acting out of meanness – and instead become instruments of mercy.

Always mercy.

When that happens, even a little, we, like Doubting Thomas, can drop to our knees and say with him those words that ring down through the centuries and make a home in our hearts:
“My Lord and my God.”

Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.

Believing in the Risen One, by Jose A. Pagola
“We Christians must never forget that faith in the risen Jesus Christ is much more than reciting a creedal formula. It is even more than affirming that something extraordinary happened to the dead Jesus about two thousand years ago.
Believing in the Risen One means believing that Christ is alive now, full of power and creativity, drawing life toward its ultimate destiny, and liberating humanity from its gradual slide into permanent chaos.

Believing in the Risen One means believing that Jesus is present in the midst of the believers. It means taking an active part in the meetings and tasks of the Christian community, joyfully affirming that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there bringing hope into our lives.

Believing in the Risen One means discovering that our prayer to Christ is not an empty monologue with nobody listening, but a dialogue with someone who is alive with us, at the heart of life itself.

Believing in the Risen One means letting his living word challenge us, and discovering in practice that his words are “spirit and life” for our nourishment.
Believing in the Risen One means knowing from personal experience that Jesus has the power to change our lives, to raise up the good in us and gradually free us from what kills our freedom.

Believing in the Risen One means being able to see him in the last and the least of our brothers and sisters, calling us to compassion and solidarity.

Believing in the Risen One means believing that he is ‘the firstborn of the dead’, the beginning of our resurrection, and the one who has already opened up for us the possibility of eternal life.

Believing in the Risen One means believing that neither suffering, nor injustice, nor cancer, nor heart attack, nor automatic rifles, nor oppression, nor disease, nor death have the last word.

The Risen One is the only Lord of life and death.”

Art by Jim Matarelli
Sister Rachel’s Quote of the Week

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