Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday
In the eyes of many, Thomas might be considered a failure. Think about it…here is a man who walked with Jesus and listened to his words for nearly three years. After the Risen Christ appeared to the other apostles, Thomas heard them say: “We have seen the Lord!” Yet, despite their testimony, he couldn’t bring himself to fully understand or believe that was true. But how did Thomas respond to that unbelief?
In the upper room, Thomas exclaimed that he would only believe in the Risen Lord if he had tangible proof. He would only believe if he could touch the nail marks in the hands and the feet of Jesus. He wanted to place his hand in the wound in the side of Christ, the same wound from which blood and water flowed. He was in denial because of what he had witnessed only a few days prior. He saw Jesus crucified; he saw Christ placed in the tomb. The Lord was dead! How could he possibly appear to the other apostles?! Imagine Thomas saying, “No, this can’t be true! I won’t believe it until he appears to me!”
In what ways are we like Thomas? In what ways are we unbelieving? There is so much happening in the world that is causing many of us to wonder where the Lord is and why He is remaining so silent. We might be finding ourselves asking: “Lord, why aren’t you stepping in to change all of this?” or “Lord, where are you? Do you even care?” We may be finding it hard to trust that the Lord is present even in the midst of the chaotic mess that we see all around us. Because of that, we are finding ourselves less and less at peace, losing the passion and zeal we once had for the faith. We are finding it hard to fully believe in Jesus. So, how can we change it?
In today’s Second Reading, St. John reminds us that by loving God and obeying his commandments we are sure to overcome the worldliness that tries to separate us from God. It’s obvious how the things happening in the world are robbing us of peace in our hearts and disrupting our communion with God and with one another. Division, strife, offense, deception, discord…they are all around us. We have to stop letting it all disrupting the peace that Christ is seeking to give us. Believing in Jesus as the Son of God is the key to turning our backs on a world that often tries to divide us and isolate us. He is the one who brings peace and communion. But in order to get there, we have to have a relationship with Him, we have to continually turn to Him. It is crucial for us to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to come to a deeper awareness of how God works in the chaos. God is still working in the world, even if we can’t see it.
Many of us are a lot like Thomas. We demand tangible proof of God’s action in the world, rather than coming to a place of believing even when we can’t see Him at work. Thomas came to belief because, after desiring to see the Risen Lord for himself, Jesus did appear. As a result of that encounter, Thomas cried the most profound expression of faith found in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God.”
If we are struggling to believe a certain aspect of our faith or struggling to fully understand a characteristic of Jesus, we can find some consolation in knowing that we are not alone. We’re in pretty good company, actually. Many times, Thomas and some of the other apostles experienced similar struggles. If we find ourselves struggling with belief or if we think that we don’t believe to the depth that we want to believe, we can’t give in to discouragement or despair; it is still possible for us today to come to deeper belief. Thomas also teaches us that! All we have to do is continue to make an act of faith and continue asking the Lord for deeper faith. The reason Thomas was able to come to belief was that, even though he doubted, he still related those things to the Lord. And, in doing that, he had an encounter with the Risen Jesus. We have to do the same. We have to keep saying, “Jesus, I trust in you” and “Lord, help my unbelief.” Those are acts of faith that dispel all doubt.
Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast that came about after Pope John Paul II was inspired by the revelations of Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska, including one in which Jesus asked for a feast of divine mercy to be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. In many of those revelations, the Lord spoke about his mercy and expressed his desire for the faithful to trust in his love and compassion.
In one their interactions, Jesus said to Faustina: “My child, life on earth is a struggle indeed; a great struggle for my kingdom. But fear not, because you are not alone. I am always supporting you, so lean on Me as you struggle, fearing nothing. Take the vessel of trust and draw from the fountain of life – for yourself, but also for other souls, especially such as are distrustful of My goodness.”
This passage from Faustina’s diary captures how Jesus loves us beyond measure, despite our lack of trust in him, despite how we sometimes are unbelieving. The apostles and countless Christians who have gone before us were witnesses to how the Lord has constantly shown his mercy to those whom he loves. The Gospel today illustrates how Thomas was one of the first recipients of that Divine Mercy. After placing his hand in the side of Christ, he was opened to receive that mercy, the mercy which gushes forth from the heart of Christ…and it changed his life forever!
After that, he went out with the other apostles and preached the Resurrection of Jesus. So, Thomas wasn’t a failure. He let the encounter with the Lord change his heart.
Just as the Lord didn’t give up on Thomas, we can have trust knowing that He isn’t going to give up on us. He wants to change our lives as well! He wants to shower his mercy upon each of us and lead us to a deeper encounter with Him. He wants to deepen our own faith and bring us to a place of deeper belief so that we, too, can become witnesses to the hope of the resurrection for others in the world.
In this Eucharist today and in our prayer this upcoming week, will we open our hearts to Him? Will we give Him permission to encounter us in our sorrow, in our doubt, in our confusion? Will we allow Him to touch our wounds? If we do, He will lead us to belief. Only then will we be able to echo the words of Thomas, expressing our faith in Jesus, saying: “My Lord and my God.”