Second Sunday of Easter – A – 14
Acts.2:42-47, 1Peter.1:3-9, Jn.20:19-31
There is a Spanish story about a father and son who had become estranged after years of bitter strife. The son finally ran away. Finding that his son was missing, the Father became heartbroken and set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort, the father placed an advertisement in the city newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the bell tower in the plaza at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” That Saturday eighty Pacos men and boys showed up in the plaza, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
The message of Divine Mercy Sunday is: “All is forgiven. I love you!” The message of mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that his mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus all will come to share His joy. It is a message we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC.
A – Ask for His mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking him to pour out His Mercy upon us and upon the whole world. B – Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C – Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
Today’s gospel passage presents to us two appearances of the Risen Lord to His apostles and disciples: first, without Thomas and then a week after with St. Thomas already. He shows them His wounds so that there would be no doubt who He is or what have happened to Him. He greets them the same way I greeted you at the beginning of the Mass: “Peace be with you.” Jesus breathes on His disciples and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
At confirmation, the bishop or the priest delegated by the bishop makes the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead (as we had yesterday) with chrism saying: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” So, we who have been confirmed have received exactly what Jesus’ original disciples received. A week after which is the second appearance, this deals now with the doubting Thomas who is not present with the rest of the apostles when Jesus appears among them.
He has his own preconceived ideas of what God was like; a complex person of courage, ignorance, doubt and faith. That is why this Second Sunday of Easter is called the Doubting Thomas Sunday because the gospel that we use every year during this Sunday is about Thomas who doubted about the resurrection of Jesus when his companions told him about the event.
St. Thomas said: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and that my finger into the nail marks and put my hands into His side, I will not believe,” (v.25). In other words, a firsthand experience or ‘to see is to believe.’ Anyway, after Jesus’ resurrection, St. Thomas has another characteristic that we should learn.
The first is he left the group. We shall not do what he did. What he did was he left the group. The other ten, even if they are sad of the death of Jesus, banded together except St. Thomas. He detached himself from the group. That is why when Jesus appeared to the group, St. Thomas was not able to enjoy Christ’s presence. So, when we are sad or are discouraged of our church leaders and other groups, we should not detach ourselves from the Christian community, the church.
The presence of Christ always comes within our Christian community. It is because He says: “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am in their midst.” I was the Principal of our own school for 12 years. I worked mostly among the little children of 5year to 17year old in the school. Every day I visit the children in the lunchroom and on the playground. I can say that one could divide the children into two groups: the Huggers and Hiders.
When I walked into the lunchroom, for example, immediately the huggers would invite you to have lunch with them and speak to you feely. Then there are the hiders, those children who went out of their way and avoid me. When I walked out into the playground, for example, the hiders ran away from me. Their flight is often caused by a guilty conscience. Chances were the hiders are those kids who just spoke in their mother tongue or stole someone’s ball, just said a bad word or just gave another kid a big shove.
Calmly and patiently, I sought out these hiders, saying: “I want these kids to see me as someone who cares for them, not as someone they see only when they are in trouble.” How about when it comes to our relationship with God, are we not huggers and hiders too? Some days we are huggers who run eagerly to God’s arms. But there are other days, we are hiders and fearfully run away from God. But God always seeks us patiently and lovingly. St. John of the Cross said: “If we are seeking God, our Beloved God is seeking us much more.”
The second thing is St. Thomas was sincere that he really doubted the resurrection of Jesus. Doubt is a part of life and it is okay. Who among us can tell that we do not doubt? All of us doubt. But let us use our doubts to inform ourselves about what bothers us. St. Thomas did not understand what was happening, so he did not presume that he knew everything. He could not grasp it fully that a person died and came back to life.
He taught us a lesson that if we do not understand, then, let us humbly, honestly and sincerely accept the fact that we do not know and understand, so we ask others to explain it to us. At the end he just said: “My Lord and my God!”
The last thing that we can learn from St. Thomas is after he knew and understood that great event he went all the way even unto death in following Jesus Christ. He had given himself totally and completely. He had offered himself to God not just ten percent of it but a hundred percent. I hope that when everything becomes clear to us, we can also give ourselves to the Lord all the way. And also if there is no God and we die, nothing would change. But, if there is a God and we die, we better hope that we live like there is a God.
Let us repeat within ourselves the words of St. Thomas: “My Lord and my God.” And after saying it, let us live these words in our lives. Let us accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy. One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive Divine Mercy.
The Gospel command, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” demands that we show mercy to our fellow human beings always and everywhere. We radiate God’s mercy to others by our actions, our words, and our prayers. Like St. Thomas, let us use our skepticism to help us grow in faith. It is our genuine doubts about the doctrines of our religion that encourage us to study these doctrines more closely and thus to grow in our Faith.
This will naturally lead us to a personal encounter with Jesus through our prayer, study of the Word of God, and frequenting of the Sacraments. However, we must never forget the fact that our Faith is not our own doing, but is a gift from God. Hence, we need to augment our Faith every day by prayer so that we may join St. Thomas in his proclamation: “My Lord and my God.” Amen.