Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

First reading                       Acts 2:42-47

Responsorial Psalm          Psalm 117(118):2-4,13-15,22-24

Second reading                   1 Peter 1:3-9

Sequence                             Victimae Paschali Laudes

Gospel                                   John 20:19-31

“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” This is of course referring to last weekend, the evening of Easter Sunday. The disciples are hiding in fear. Their Lord and Master has been executed and his tomb found empty and now they too are in danger of facing the same fate as their Master. Suddenly and without warning, Jesus appears in their midst, alive and exposing his wounds. In their fear and grief he greets them with peace. Curiously, St Thomas wasn’t there. Many have often speculated as to where Thomas was, but I suspect the question is irrelevant. He might have gone out for bread and milk for all we know! A better question, I suggest, is why did Jesus appear to the disciples while Thomas wasn’t there? Do you think the glorified and risen Lord didn’t know that Thomas wasn’t home? Of course he knew! So why would he appear in Thomas’ absence? Did he wish to exclude him? No? What happens a week later, on the eighth (Octave) day, that is today, explains the reason, I believe.

First, when the disciples reported to Thomas what he’d missed out on, he refused to believe it. He’s often referred to as the “doubting” Thomas, which is quite incorrect. Doubt is when you’re uncertain or on the fence about something, though you may be leaning towards a negative. Thomas, the text tells us, was not on the fence about anything. He was quite decidedly sure that he did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection. In fact he was obstinate in that denial. “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”, he says. Here we have not a case of doubt, but a refusal to believe. Furthermore, Thomas says that he won’t believe, even if he were to see the Lord. He says he must not only see but also touch, in order to believe. Here we have, dear brothers and sisters, a very wounded man – wounded and hardened by unbelief. Perhaps he was so crushed by the death of his Lord and friend that he would not allow himself the vulnerability of hoping and believing again. After all, he’d left everything to follow Jesus and he’d put all his eggs into one basket, only to be utterly disappointed. It often happens that people who have been so burnt by disappointment or hurt that they no longer allow themselves to hope or trust. What was Thomas to do now that his young life seemed to have turned to ashes on the cross? His one hope had been buried in the tomb. I don’t know about you, dear friends, but I know and have known plenty of people like Thomas. People whose faith and hope have been crushed by disappointment, people who become hardened and obstinate by their woundedness, such that nothing you can say or do will change their minds. People who refuse the truth. This is a frightening condition.

You see, God can work with doubts. Doubt implies indecision and therefore openness to possibility. People who are not sure but are open to finding the Truth and changing their position are already part way there. Our personal witness to Jesus can bring them to faith. One of the big problems of our day are that so many people are not open to the Truth. They aren’t interested in having their lives disturbed by the incredible excitement of faith in something beyond themselves. Those who are wounded with a hardened unbelief are already locked in a kind of hell. Locked in themselves, they have locked the Lord out of their lives. If only they doubted and weren’t so sure of their unbelief! Fortunately, however, the risen Lord Jesus is able to pass through locked doors! In the case of Thomas, our Lord passed through the locked doors at first while he wasn’t there. But he did so in order that he might later pass through the locked doors of Thomas’ unbelieving heart so as to heal the wounds of his unbelief. “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” – In fact this is a mistranslation. The Greek text says nothing of doubt. It uses the term “unbelieving” or “faithless” (ἄπιστος). “Be no longer faithless but believing.” In touching the wounds of his Lord and Master, who was wounded for his sake, Thomas touches his own wounds, in a sense. The Lord’s wounds are caused by our sins, they manifest outwardly the damage and ruination of our own souls due to sin. Thomas is confronted in the crucified and risen Lord, by the woundedness of his own sins. And yet, it is a strange woundedness, a woundedness transformed, one which suffers no more. A woundedness redeemed! And in that sublime moment Thomas receives redemption when, with the fullest expression of faith in all the Gospels, he exclaims with total self-surrender and ecstasy, “my Lord and my God!” Nowhere else in the Gospels does anyone have this kind of faith. This is typical of those who have had their unbelieving hearts shattered by the Truth.

Former unbelievers tend to make the best, most faithful and most passionate of believers. They put cafeteria Catholics to shame, who like to pick and choose the bits of the faith they want to follow in a deathly lukewarmness. Former unbelievers like St Thomas know full well the hellish experience of being locked behind obstinate and proud alienation from their maker. Indeed, St Thomas would go on to give his life in India, preaching the faith he received on this day. St Thomas was eventually put to death for that faith, and many people in southern India today are blessed by a lively faith inherited from this great Apostle. Brothers and sisters, “blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe.” St Thomas’ faith saved him, but you and I are called to a higher faith yet. St Thomas saw and touched. He did so that we may believe without seeing and touching, and so obtain the beatitude which Jesus utters on this day. “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.” My friends, let us trust St Thomas’ witness and his martyrdom and pray for an increase of that redeeming faith. That same crucified and risen Lord is about to appear in our midst in the Holy Eucharist. Let us reach out and touch him in faith, with the doors of our hearts unlocked: “My Lord and my God!”

One response to “Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)”

  1. There are SO many even familywise 😭 & sometimes you wonder if you can make a difference physically … by practising your faith openely and not hiding it under a bushel…. pray as always daily 🙏🏻
    Sometimes I think of Padre Pio PRAY HOPE & DON’T WORRY . I need to leave it to God to handle as he did St Thomas.
    Thank you for painting the picture of St Thomas’s disbelief & how Jesus in His Mercy made it all go away 😱🤗🙏🏻


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: