• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

2nd Sunday of Easter [or Sunday of Divine Mercy (A)

"Eight days later, Jesus came and stood in their midst."

Entrance Antiphon: 1 Pt 2:2 – “Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in Him you may grow to salvation, alleluia.”

First Reading: Acts 4:32-35 – “They were of one heart and mind.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 – “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love is everlasting.”

Second Reading: 1 Jn 5:1-6 – “Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.”

Alleluia: Jn 20:29 – “You believe in Me, Thomas, because you have seen Me, says the Lord; blessed are those who not seen Me, but still believe!”

Gospel: Jn 20:19-31 – “Eight days later, Jesus came and stood in their midst.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 20:27 – “Bring your hand and feel the place of the nails, and do not be unbelieving but believing, alleluia.”

Most of us have imperfect recall when it comes to remembering names … in other words, we don’t always remember the names of those we meet. But nicknames, on the other hand, stick like glue. And when a nickname is an implied criticism, it is even harder to shake. I’m sure several former presidents would like to lose their unwelcome labels. How many of you remember “Slick Willie,” or “Tricky Dick?” How about “Cautious Cal,” or “Give ‘Em Hell Harry?” Well, likewise “Doubting Thomas” probably has an equally valid complaint. He makes one wrong move and for over two thousand years, people have never forgotten. Where is the justice in that?

As a famous theologian once said, “We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” By taking a closer look at the probable cause of Thomas’ doubting, we might come to understand him – and ourselves – a little better. For even if our faith has not yet been shaken by the winds of doubt, the lives of the saints suggest that our time of testing will come.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, all of the disciples were overcome by fear. Saint John’s Gospel states the plain truth. He and Peter and the rest of the disciples were hiding behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” They expressed no expectation that Jesus would appear to save the day. We can be sure that the hair stood up on their heads and their arms when … like a lightning bolt on a cloudless day … Jesus suddenly stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He breathed His Spirit on them, sending them out as His Gospel messengers ... “Apostles. There was only one problem. Thomas was not there. Maybe he was the only one brave enough to go out for supplies. Maybe he was so devastated by Jesus’ death that he had to be alone for a while with his grief. And having offered those possible explanations, maybe we should all give him the benefit of the doubt.

Before Thomas doubted, he showed great courage and faithfulness. Recall the story of how Jesus decided, despite threats of arrest, to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus. Only one disciple immediately supported Him. In the Gospel of Saint John, we read that Thomas roused the others by saying. “Let us also go to die with Him.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus assured the disciples that where He was going they too would go. Once again it was loyal Thomas who spoke up, seeking direction in case they were separated from Him, “Master, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?”

Despite those two stories in which he is looking good, we don’t refer to him as Heroic Thomas or Loyal Thomas. In the movie “Dead Man Walking,” Sister Helen Prejean comments about a convicted criminal, “A person is always more than the worst thing they’ve ever done in their lives.” So give it some thought today and every day … maybe we should give each other, whatever our offenses and failings ... the benefit of the doubt.

By seeking proof of Jesus’ rising, Thomas prompted high praise for all of us. He had been left out of the most stunning experience that the disciples had ever had. Perhaps his refusal to take their word about the Resurrection was rooted in the fear of discovering that they were victims of an illusion. Thomas had to have proof before he could go on.

In the painting by Caravaggio, Jesus is depicted as guiding Thomas’ finger into the open wound of His side. The Gospel, however, does not say that Thomas actually touched Christ’s wounds. He saw his risen Master and simply and profoundly exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus surely understood Thomas’ doubting. But He uses the occasion to say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” If Thomas had not suffered his crisis of faith, we might not have been so well praised for our believing … “Blessed are we who have not seen and have believed.”

It has been said that only those who have a deep faith can survive a deep doubt. Thomas encourages each of us to trust in Jesus. He has risen from the dead and is waiting to raise each of us up as well. May we each be given the grace to make Thomas’ prayer “My Lord and My God!” ... our own.

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