St. Thomas is my favorite apostle because I think in so many ways his reactions and his ways of thinking are so understandable, so relatable for all of us today. In today’s Gospel he isn’t there the first time when Jesus appears and he returns to the unbelievable, the news that his friend who was brutally killed is alive. For him to say that he won’t believe isn’t hardness of heart, it’s a reasonable response to something that literally changes the world. There are many things that we are willing to accept out of trust of the person who told us or because it makes sense and matches our assumptions, but some things we simply need to see and to touch to really believe. St. Peter didn’t believe the woman who came from the empty tomb until he went there and found the burial cloths. The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t believe Peter until Jesus appeared to them on the road and they invited him to stay for dinner and finally recognized him in the breaking of the bread. No one really believes and experiences conversion until faith in Christ Jesus becomes a personal matter, an encounter that is real and undeniable. For the apostles who knew Jesus in his ministry it was seeing him risen; for most of us… it is experiencing God’s mercy.
I’m sure there’s a reason written somewhere for why Divine Mercy Sunday is always the Sunday following Easter, but in my mind it’s because to encounter the presence of Christ is to know his mercy. When Jesus appeared to the disciples he didn’t come with anger that they all abandoned him during his Passion, he instead said “peace be with you.” When he wanted to restore Peter’s confidence he didn’t ask Peter to explain why he had denied him three times, he simply asked Peter “do you love me?” three times. When Thomas said he wouldn’t believe without seeing and touching the wounds, Jesus didn’t rebuke him but basically said, “if that’s what you need then here it is. Touch and believe.”
And that merciful presence is still absolutely available to us today. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus gave that presence to his followers in this Gospel. He said, “’as the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” The overwhelming merciful love of Christ was entrusted to us. When we forgive one another and live in peace and communion like the early believers of our first reading, when we receive the Eucharist and unite our selves to each other in His Body and Blood, and above all when the priest speaks in the name of the community and of Christ and says, “I absolve you from your sins” in the sacrament of reconciliation… those moments are the mercy of Christ and are as real as Thomas placing his hands upon those wounds of the Cross. Because when we know that God is merciful we know that we don’t have to hide from Him. We don’t have to fear the living presence of a God who responds to our failures with love.
I hate that we nicknamed St. Thomas, “Doubting Thomas” because it should have been “honest Thomas”. As we begin the Easter Season and seek out that paschal joy in our lives, may we do so with the honesty, the simplicity, and the trust of Thomas. Tell God what you need from Him even if you don’t deserve it. Trust in Divine Mercy, and find yourself knowing fully in a way you can’t deny with hearts inflamed, that indeed Christ is truly risen.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.