Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 24, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

Acts 5:12-16
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31

On the evening of the day of Resurrection, Jesus suddenly appears in the upper room where the disciples have gathered in fear. His greeting of peace tells them not to be afraid. Jesus then breathes on His disciples, a gesture reminding us of God breathing the breath of life into Adam. Jesus’ breath signals new life for His disciples, the gift of the Holy Spirit that will enable them to bring Christ’s forgiveness to others.

Thomas is not present among the gathered disciples in that first encounter with Jesus in which they receive the gift of faith. Thomas hears what they say, but he is rigid in his explicit doubts regarding the truth of what they tell him. There might be many motives for Thomas’ initial rejection of the testimony of the other disciples. Perhaps it’s too difficult for Thomas to believe; perhaps Thomas has sadness over Jesus’ death; perhaps Thomas is ashamed of his disloyalty to Jesus in abandoning Christ when He needed Thomas to be a friend. The important point is that the other disciples do not abandon Thomas in his doubts. They don’t judge Thomas or expel him. They remain with Thomas; they listen to Thomas; they share their experience of Jesus and their faith with Thomas. They remain assembled as the Church in prayer. Their faith is not a private experience; it is the shared experience of their communal identity as the Church. Our faith is not a private experience; it is shared as communal in our life as the Church.

We must do the same with our friends and families who have doubts and when we have doubts, we must draw closer to those who are confident in their faith. Tradition has come to know Thomas as the doubter, but this is probably unfair since all the Apostles had their doubts as is evidenced by the locked doors of the upper room when Jesus appears the second time. 

Thomas has been confused about the order of things. He has thought that vision leads to faith; rather it is the shared gift of faith that provides authentic and true vision. It is the gift of faith that leads Thomas and all the Apostles and disciples ever deeper into the mystery of perfect mercy and love, the love of the cross and eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The experience of doubt is not sufficient reason for each of us not to be present at Mass with the other members of the Church. This was true for Thomas and the early disciples spoken of in today’s Gospel; it is also true for each of us gathered here today.

When Thomas meets the Risen Lord, he becomes the first Apostle to recognize Jesus for who He is: “My Lord and my God.” And Jesus responds to this confession of faith by reminding us of the grace we have been given: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.”

We believe without seeing, but that is not yet enough for us. We must be willing to seek the Lord in our lives. We can do that by living the forgiveness that Jesus asks of His disciples in the Gospel today. Forgiveness is letting go of insults and injuries, of slander and gossip and other injustices that we experience. “Letting go” of these things means that we also let go of our own exaggerated sense of self-importance, and it means that we not only forgive but also forget — something so hard for us to do and impossible to do without grace.

When we forgive, we share Jesus’ passion and death with Him, and we echo His words: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” When we forgive, we accept the mission that Jesus gave to His friends huddled in fear in that upper room. When we forgive, we become instruments of the Holy Spirit, bringing the new life of Jesus’ Resurrection to others. When we forgive, we become the blessed who have not seen but who truly believe.

Thomas initially set conditions for his decision to believe. Jesus showed how futile these conditions were when Jesus shows Thomas His own glorified wounds. This experience of Thomas in the loving presence of the assembled disciples prompts in him the gift of the faithful cry, “My Lord, and my God.” The glorified wounds of Christ are manifested in the presence of the Church, gathered in that room and gathered here today — the wounded Apostles, the wounded disciples are glorified as well in the wounds of Christ. They are not the bloody wounds of sin. They are the glorified wounds of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

The love of Christ through the cross engenders the eternal life and peace afforded us in His Resurrection. Because of Christ’s introduction of perfect love into death through His sacrifice on the cross, it is in and through the acceptance of death on God’s terms, which are truth and love, that eternal life mercifully enters into the world; not through our denial or evasion of sin and death based on conditions that we set for ourselves. If all we focus upon are the wounds caused by those who have hurt us without the light of grace and mercy; we run the risk of wounding others and of being wounded again by our own sins.

Thomas hears; then he believes; then he sees. Thomas at first is mistaken by thinking that seeing leads to believing. Yet, in encountering Christ in the gathered presence of the disciples whose testimony he has heard, Thomas comes to know that it is faith that leads to sight. 

We proceed now with the offering of the Mass that makes present the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven and through which we receive the power to forgive others. Let us each listen to the words of the Eucharistic prayer and come to see in the consecrated elements of bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ shed for love of us, so that we might truly believe that Christ is our Lord and our God. In the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “You wish to see, listen. Hearing is a step towards vision.”

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