Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Second Sunday of Easter: God’s Mercy Forgives Our Doubts
This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is also the Sunday where the Gospel reading is always that of Doubting Thomas. That’s because the second part of today’s Gospel takes place the Sunday after Easter. Now I used to have a difficult time trying to understand why Pope St. John Paul II would place Divine Mercy Sunday this week. Isn’t mercy the main theme of Lent? Recently, though, I have realized that mercy is the foundation of the Easter Season. Jesus came to bring God’s mercy to the world. His death defeated the power of evil. People could now approach the throne of Grace, as The Letter to the Hebrews presents it, to receive mercy. Look closely at the first meeting of the Resurrected Christ with his disciples. It’s in today’s Gospel. He stood among them and said, “Peace with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus came to bring mercy to the world. He empowered the disciples and through them the Church, to be the vehicle of His Mercy.
Thomas doubted the Lord. Perhaps he was really doubting the story of the disciples. Like him, they all had deserted the Lord. Their leader, Peter, had even denied him. One of them, Judas, had turned traitor. But there was more to Thomas doubting then his distrusting the other disciples. Thomas had heard the Lord say that He would be put to death and that on the third day He would rise from the dead. Thomas was doubting what Jesus had said.
Picture that scene from Thomas’ perspective when he was in the Upper Room the week after Easter. There were the other disciples with their tale of having seen Jesus the week before. Thomas must have thought, “These guys really are
Looney Toons. I’ve got to get away from here ASAP.” And then Jesus appears. “Oh, oh,” Thomas had to think, “I am in deep trouble.” But he wasn’t. Jesus understood his doubts. He didn’t just offer Himself as proof that He had risen. He forgave Thomas for doubting.
And that is the key for today’s celebration. Jesus forgives us for doubting. People will often confess having doubts in the faith. They wonder if God will forgive them for doubting Him. I think we all wonder if God will forgive us for doubting. Of course He will. He knows what it is like to be human. He knows how even the most determined believer will still have periods of doubts in his or her life. He came for mercy.
Remember adolescents and the early Teen years? That was the wonderful period in our lives when we began to look at the world in a completely different way than we looked at the world during childhood. We challenged a lot of things. Perhaps, we even challenged God. The images of God of our childhood lost their weight in adolescence. We may have even gone through periods when we were certain that God did not exist. But through our struggles, we began to realize that God was infinitely greater than our minds could comprehend. And then guilt hit us. How could we go before God after doubting Him? Would He forgive us? Of course He will, and He does forgive us. He forgave Thomas who had been with Him for those three years experiencing the Lord’s wonders and being held spellbound by His preaching, but who still doubted Him. If the Lord was willing to forgive Thomas, He will forgive us. One of the most reassuring messages of scripture comes at the conclusion of today’s Gospel. After Thomas made his prayer of faith, saying “My Lord and My God,” Jesus said, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?” And then the Lord looked down the ages, he looked at all people of all time, He looked directly at you and at me, and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” How good is that? We are being blessed by the Lord because we have not seen Him, yet still believe in Him.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” John 20:30
The result of our taking the leap of faith is that we allow Him into our lives. And when we allow Him in, He comes totally, with His Life.
We pray for faith today. We seek forgiveness for our times of doubt, and we are convinced that His mercy will fill us with His Life. After all, this is Divine Mercy Sunday.