Saint Thomas the Apostle

Today’s readings

You know, sometimes I think we don’t know what we believe until we’re called upon to explain it.  Especially for those of us who are “cradle Catholics” – the ones who were baptized Catholic and have grown up in the faith all our lives.  We often just accept the things the Church teaches, and never really stop to question them.  And that’s okay, but it’s also okay when we’re called upon to explain our beliefs, if we have to do a little research.  Because there’s always more to learn, and there is always more believing to be done!

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe” is what Jesus tells St. Thomas today.  He might as well say that to all of us.  Because we should never stop exploring our beliefs, never stop learning about our faith.  We’ll never know it all anyway – at least not on this side of heaven.  On that great day when everything is revealed, things will be different, but until then, we have to renew that call to “not be unbelieving, but believe!”

I once had a couple preparing for marriage in my office.  The bride was not Catholic, but they are preparing to have their wedding in the Catholic Church, so they of course were going through our marriage preparation program.  The groom remarked when we met that day that “this might sound bad, but I’ve been learning more about the faith in explaining it to her.”  I told him that didn’t sound bad at all, and that moments like that are an opportunity for us to grow in faith.  So many spouses of people going through RCIA have said the same thing: they learn as much as their non-Catholic spouse when the attend RCIA with them.  Learning about our faith is a life-long, joy-filled process.  Do not be unbelieving, but believe!

And so we are going to give poor Thomas the doubter a break today.  Because we all need to grow in our faith.  And what a wonderful invitation we have from our Lord: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”

The Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Today’s readings

Today, on the eighth day of Easter, which we still celebrate as Easter Sunday, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, which was instituted by Pope Saint John Paul II, of blessed memory.  On this Sunday, we remember that the resurrection of our Lord was an act of intense mercy for us sinners, obliterating the power of sin and giving us the possibility of life eternal, if we are willing to live the Gospel and turn away from our sins.

And even though His Holiness did not choose the Gospel reading we have for today, I don’t think he could have chosen a better one to illustrate God’s Divine Mercy.  Today, Saint John recounts the evening when the disciples were together, save for Thomas, pretty much just trying to figure out what to do next.  So far that day, they had come to find the tomb empty, and Mary Magdalene reported that she had seen the Lord alive.  Obviously, they needed to process what was happening.

But they were incredibly afraid.  They knew that they could easily suffer the same fate as the Lord, and feared that the Jews were hunting them down.  I think in some ways, too, beginning to realize that the Lord had truly risen, they were afraid that they might not be doing what our Lord expected of them.  So they meet together in perhaps the same upper room in which they had eaten the Last Supper, with the doors locked for fear of their pursuers, and they’re talking things over.  Suddenly, into their confusion, the Lord appears, bringing his gift of peace, and bestowing on them the Holy Spirit.  Immediately, they come to believe and go out to do what believers do: tell the story.

Which brings us to poor Saint Thomas, who, for whatever reason, was not with them when the Lord appeared.  It’s important to remember that the only reason the others believed was because they had received the Holy Spirit: it takes that gift of Divine Mercy to come to understand our Lord’s message.  Since Thomas had not received that gift, he’s at a different place on the faith journey than the rest of them.  So before we get too hard on “doubting Thomas,” I think he should get a bit of a break here.

Then our Lord comes and gives him what he asked for: a direct, personal, intimate encounter, in which his questions are answered and he is able to hold his Lord and come to full belief.  Here, he too receives the Spirit, and can then go out to preach the Gospel to those our Lord entrusts to him.

I think we see Divine Mercy here in a few different ways.  First, we see it in our Lord’s wounds, which he showed to Thomas at his request.  Jesus truly suffered in the flesh for us, dying an agonizing death on the Cross, that death that paid the price for our own sins.  He paid the price for us, and he paid it in a horrible, painful, public way.  No one dies for those he doesn’t love, and so we see in our Lord’s wounds his immense Divine Mercy for us.

We see Divine Mercy in the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which we receive in baptism and confirmation, to embark on a life of faith.  Confusion reigns where the Spirit has not been received: that was the case for the disciples including Saint Thomas, and it is the case for all of us.  Without the Holy Spirit, we can’t know God or enter into relationship with him.  But thanks to his Divine Mercy, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit at our disposal.

And finally, we see Divine Mercy in the interaction with Saint Thomas.  Jesus could have left Thomas in his doubt.  He wasn’t there with the others, he refused to believe, so let him sort it all out.  But our Lord wouldn’t – couldn’t – do that.  Instead, he pursues Thomas, and gives him what he needs to believe.  He does that with us too, never giving up on us.  That’s Divine Mercy.

Here’s the message though.  Like our Lord’s other gifts, Divine Mercy isn’t meant to be received and then kept in a neat little box on our prayer shelf.  Our world is desperate for God’s Divine Mercy.  There are hungry people to be fed, there are people who need to know the Lord, there is terror and war and animosity that needs to be drenched in God’s love, there are people in our own lives who need our forgiveness.  So we disciples, who received the gift of the Holy Spirit as a direct outpouring of God’s love, need to take that Divine Mercy to a world that needs it so desperately.

Holy God, holy mighty one, holy immortal one, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Jesus, I trust in you!

Saint Thomas, Apostle

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Saint Thomas sometimes gets a bad rap for having said that, but if we’re honest, I think most of us can understand Thomas’s hesitation to believe, since we have all probably struggled with belief at some point in our lives. And Thomas had good reason not to believe: the apostles were all frightened for their lives, having seen their Lord taken away to his death. Certainly that brings some healthy wariness to one’s thoughts, words and actions.

I also wonder, sometimes, if Thomas’s response was an expression of hurt. For whatever reason, he was not present when the apostles first saw Jesus. They had a wonderful experience of the Lord that Thomas didn’t get to have. That experience helped them all to believe in the resurrection. It seems natural to me that Thomas may have felt a little left out, a little unjustly deprived of the Lord’s presence. We’ve all had experiences like that too, I think.

But Thomas need not have felt deprived, because he was given an opportunity the others didn’t get: he got to reach out and touch the Lord Jesus, an experience way more intimate than just seeing him. We get to have that kind of experience too. In a few minutes, we will all get to come forward and reach out and touch the Body of our Lord, allowing the Lord to enter our lives and our selves once again to fill us up and send us forth to be his disciples.

We’ve been a lot like Thomas, I think. We’ve all struggled with our faith, we’ve all experienced the hurt that comes from being left out. But we’re also all given the opportunity to have a real experience of our Lord by reaching out to receive him. So may we, all of us who have not seen but have believed, may we all cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

Saint Thomas the Apostle

Today’s readings

You know, sometimes I think we don’t know what we believe until we’re called upon to explain it.  Especially for those of us who are “cradle Catholics” – the ones who were baptized Catholic and have grown up in the faith all our lives.  We often just accept the things the Church teaches, and never really stop to question them.  And that’s okay, but it’s also okay when we’re called upon to explain our beliefs, if we have to do a little research.  Because there’s always more to learn, and there is always more believing to be done!

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe” is what Jesus tells St. Thomas today.  He might as well say that to all of us.  Because we should never stop exploring our beliefs, never stop learning about our faith.  We’ll never know it all anyway – at least not on this side of heaven.  On that great day when everything is revealed, things will be different, but until then, we have to renew that call to “not be unbelieving, but believe!”  Learning about our faith is a life-long, joy-filled process.  Do not be unbelieving, but believe!

And so we are going to give poor Thomas the doubter a break today.  Because we all need to grow in our faith, and when we do, Saint Thomas is our patron saint!  And what a wonderful invitation we have from our Lord: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”

The Second Sunday of Easter

Today’s readings

Today is the feast day for those of us who sometimes question things, and the apostle, St. Thomas, is our patron saint. And so today we can give Thomas a hard time for his unbelief, and we can disparage all those other “doubting Thomases” in our lives, or, maybe, we can just come to the Lord in our humility and say “My Lord and my God!”

Because I’m sure we can all think of at least one time when we were reluctant to believe something, or had our faith tested, only to have Jesus stand before us and say, “Peace be with you.” I remember the time that it became apparent to me that the Lord was calling me to go to seminary after so many years being out of school. I had a long list of reasons why that wouldn’t work, why it couldn’t be done at this stage of my life, why anyone would be a better choice than me. And I never got a direct answer to any of that. Never. In some ways, all I got was Jesus standing in the midst of my questioning and saying to me “Peace be with you.” And six months later I was in seminary.

You’ve had that same kind of experience at some point in your life, I’d bet. Maybe it was in college when you started really questioning your faith and felt like everything anyone had ever told you was a lie. Or maybe it was the time you were called to do something at Church, or even take a turn in your career, and couldn’t possibly believe that you were qualified to do that. Maybe it was the time it suddenly dawned on you that you were a parent, and had no idea how you could ever raise a child. It could even have been the time when you completely changed your career – as I did – and weren’t totally sure that was God’s will for you.

Like Thomas, we want evidence, hard facts, a good hard look at the big picture, before we’re ready to jump in. We want to “see the mark of the nails in his hands and put our fingers into the nail-marks and put our hands into his side.” But that’s not faith. Some people say that seeing is believing, but faith tells us that believing is seeing. “Blessed are they,” Jesus says, “who have not seen but still believe.” We sometimes first have to make an act of faith, a leap of faith if you will, before we can really see what God is doing in our lives. And that’s the hard part; that’s the part that, like Thomas, we are reluctant to do.

Jesus makes three invitations to us today. The first is to believe. Believe with all your heart and mind and soul. Believe first, and leave the seeing to later. Trust that God is with you, walking with you, guiding you, willing the best for you. This is Divine Mercy Sunday, so we are called to trust in our merciful God who pours out his love on us each day.  Be ready to make that leap of faith. What God has in store for us is so much better than our puny plans for our lives. Be blessed by not seeing but still believing.

The second invitation is to touch. “Put your finger here and see my hands,” Jesus says to Thomas, “and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” He makes that same invitation to us every time we walk up to receive Holy Communion. What a gift it is to be able to share in Christ’s wounds, to be bound up in his Passion, to live the resurrection and to be nourished by his very body and blood. Just like Thomas, we’re invited to touch so that we too might believe.

The third invitation is to live a new day. The Gospel tells us that Jesus first came to the Apostles on the evening of the “first day of the week.” That detail isn’t there so that we know what day it is or can mark our calendars. In the Gospel, the “first day of the week” refers to the new day that Jesus is bringing about – a new day of faith, a new day of trust in God’s Divine Mercy, a new day of being caught up in God’s life. We are invited to that new day every time we gather for worship.

We have doubts, periodically and sometimes persistently. But God does not abandon us in our doubt. Just like Thomas, he comes to us in the midst of our uncertainty and says to us: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” “Peace be with you.”

The Second Sunday of Easter

Today’s readings

I really feel like we are inappropriately harsh on poor Saint Thomas.  Sure, he had the benefit of seeing and knowing Jesus during his life, but still, neither he nor any of the other disciples had a guidebook of what was to happen after Jesus’ death, so how can we blame him for not believing this incredible story?  Today is the feast day for those of us who sometimes question things, and the apostle, Saint Thomas, is our patron saint.  I think, rather than disparage Saint Thomas, we might do better to just come to the Lord in our humility and say “My Lord and my God!”

Because I’m sure we can all think of at least one time when we were reluctant to believe something, or had our faith tested, only to have Jesus stand before us and say, “Peace be with you.”  I remember the time that it became apparent to me that the Lord was calling me to go to seminary after so many years being out of school.  I had a long list of reasons why that wouldn’t work, why it couldn’t be done at this stage of my life, why anyone would be a better choice than me.  And I never got a direct answer to any of that.  Never.  In some ways, all I got was Jesus standing in the midst of my questioning and saying to me “Peace be with you.”  And six months later I was in seminary.

You’ve had that same kind of experience at some point in your life, I’d bet.  Maybe it was in college when you started really questioning your faith and felt like everything anyone had ever told you was a lie.  Or maybe it was the time you were called to do something at Church, or even take a turn in your career, and couldn’t possibly believe that you were qualified to do that.  Maybe it was the time it suddenly dawned on you that you were a parent, and had no idea how you could ever raise a child.  It could even have been the time when you completely changed your career – as I did – and weren’t totally sure that was God’s will for you.

Like Thomas, we want evidence, hard facts, a good hard look at the big picture, before we’re ready to jump in.  We want to “see the mark of the nails in his hands and put our fingers into the nailmarks and put our hands into his side.”  That’s the kind of people we are, but that’s not faith.  Some people say that seeing is believing, but faith tells us that believing is seeing.  “Blessed are they,” Jesus says, “who have not seen but still believe.”  We sometimes first have to make an act of faith, a leap of faith if you will, before we can really see what God is doing in our lives.  And that’s the hard part, that’s the part that we, like Thomas, are reluctant to do.

Jesus makes three invitations to us today.  The first is to believe.  Believe with all your heart and mind and soul.  Believe first, and leave the seeing to later.  Trust that God is with you, walking with you, guiding you, willing the best for you.  Be ready to make that leap of faith, because that’s what it takes for us to see God’s will.  What God has in store for us is so much better than our puny plans for our lives.  Be blessed by not seeing but still believing.

The second invitation is to touch.  “Put your finger here and see my hands,” Jesus says to Thomas, “and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  He makes that same invitation to us every time we walk up to receive Holy Communion.  What a gift it is to be able to share in Christ’s wounds, to be bound up in his Passion, to live the resurrection and to be nourished by his very body and blood.  Just like Thomas, we’re invited to touch so that we too might believe.  That’s why coming to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day is so important.

The third invitation is to live a new day. The Gospel tells us that Jesus first came to the Apostles on the evening of the “first day of the week.”  That detail isn’t there so that we know what day it is or can mark our calendars.  In the Gospel, the “first day of the week” refers to the new day that Jesus is bringing about – a new day of faith, a new day of trust in God’s divine mercy, a new day of being caught up in God’s life.  We are invited to that new day every time we gather for worship.

We have doubts, periodically and sometimes persistently.  But God does not abandon us in our doubt.  Just like Thomas, he comes to us in the midst of our uncertainty and says to us: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  “Peace be with you.”

 

St. Thomas the Apostle

Today’s readings

I think that St. Thomas often gets a bad rap for his doubt.  He merely expresses what we would probably be thinking if we were him, and for that matter what the other disciples would have been thinking if they didn’t get to see Jesus the first time.  But in his doubt, Jesus invites him to blessing.  Thomas is invited to touch the Lord so that he could believe and be one with him.  That’s the same invitation we have every time we approach the Lord in the Eucharist.  “Take and eat,” Jesus says, “Touch me and do not be unbelieving but believe.”  May the invitation to touch our Eucharistic Lord be the occasion to dispel our own doubt and become more closely one with him.

St. Thomas the Apostle

Today's readings

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caravaggiodoubtingthomas.jpgYou know, sometimes I think we don’t know what we believe until we’re called upon to explain it.  Especially for those of us who are “cradle Catholics” – the ones who were baptized Catholic and have grown up in the faith all our lives.  We just accept the things the Church teaches, and never really stop to question them.  And that’s okay, but it’s also okay when we’re called upon to explain our beliefs, if we have to do a little research.  Because there’s always more to learn, and there is always more believing to be done!

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe” is what Jesus tells St. Thomas today.  He might as well say that to all of us.  Because we should never stop exploring our beliefs, never stop learning about our faith.  We’ll never know it all anyway – at least not on this side of heaven.  On that great day when everything is revealed, things will be different, but until then, we have to renew that call to “not be unbelieving, but believe!”

I had a couple preparing for marriage in my office the other day.  The bride is not Catholic, but they are preparing to have their wedding here at St. Raphael, so they have of course been going through our marriage preparation program.  He remarked when we met the other day that “this might sound bad, but I’ve been learning more about the faith in explaining it to her.”  I told him that didn’t sound bad at all, and that moments like that are an opportunity for us to grow in faith.  So many spouses of people going through RCIA have said the same thing: they learn as much as their non-Catholic spouse when the attend RCIA with them.  Learning about our faith is a life-long, joy-filled process.  Do not be unbelieving, but believe!

And so we are going to give poor Thomas the doubter a break today.  Because we all need to grow in our faith.  And what a wonderful invitation we have from our Lord: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”