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“My Lord and My God”: Homily for April 3, 2016, Divine Mercy Sunday

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When I was in college, I had a journalism professor who worked as an editor for The Washington Post. He was constantly impressing on us the importance of checking sources and double-checking facts. One day, he offered us this advice—a piece of wisdom that originated, I’m told, in Chicago’s famous City News Bureau.

“If your mother tells you she loves you,” he said. “Check it out.”

That’s good advice for reporters. And, I think St. Thomas would have understood exactly what he meant. He would have made a great journalist—and in this gospel, in fact, he finds himself in the middle of the biggest scoop in history.

There’s not much that we know about Thomas. Details about his life are sketchy. By one account, he was a builder. One legend says that he was the only apostle to witness the Assumption of Mary—and in a reversal of this gospel, the other followers of Christ didn’t believe him until he showed them her empty tomb.

What is known for certain is that after Christ’s Ascension, he traveled as far as India, where he baptized people in Kerala, in the southwestern part of the country.

To this day, the banks of the Periyar River are a shrine—revered as the spot where he first arrived in the country and baptized. Countless people in the region call themselves “Thomas Christians,” descendants of those who first converted to the faith because of St. Thomas.

In Rome, a church contains a relic that is said to be bone from his finger—the very finger that reached out to touch the risen Christ. But his legacy extends much farther than relics and stories. You could consider St. Thomas the spiritual father of anyone who has ever questioned, or wondered, or doubted. He speaks for anyone who has ever wrestled with faith—anyone who has ever been challenged to believe the unbelievable or find the incredible credible.

In a sense, Thomas speaks for all of us at one time or another. He speaks for us when our prayer life is weak, when doubt is strong, when fear and mistrust overwhelm us. Anyone who has ever struggled with faith, or felt distant from God, can find a kindred spirit in St. Thomas.

Which is why this gospel passage is so critical and relevant—especially today, Divine Mercy Sunday.

It isn’t just that Thomas came to believe, that he was moved to exclaim, “My Lord and my God.”

But it’s how it happened.

In John’s account, Jesus first appeared to the apostles while Thomas wasn’t there —and Thomas, as we heard, was incredulous. He didn’t buy it. It sounds too good to be true. Show me, he said.

So Jesus appeared a second time. This time, Thomas was there. He saw and believed.

And it all happened for one reason: because Jesus gave him another chance.

He offered him another opportunity—a way back from doubt to faith, from skepticism to belief. He knew what Thomas needed. He knew what was lacking. So Jesus, the font of Divine Mercy, returned to that upper room a second time in a gesture of mercy that left one man profoundly changed. A skeptic became a saint.

It happened for Thomas.

It can happen for all of us.

This is what lies at the heart of this particular Sunday. And: it’s what lies at the heart of Sacrament of Reconciliation—the opportunity to begin again, to start anew.

Jesus didn’t give up on Thomas. And he doesn’t give up on us.

God is waiting for us.

Grace is waiting for us.

Mercy is waiting for us.

That scene in the upper room reveals more than a God who just wants us to believe.

It also reveals to us a God who has shared in our humanity—he wants us to see that he has suffered with us and for us.

He wants us to see his wounds.

He understands. He has bled. He has cried out in pain. He has been pierced. He has been broken. He knows what we are going through, and has the scars to show for it.

But that appearance in the upper room reminds Thomas and reminds the world: those scars and those wounds were not the end of the story.

Not for Jesus.

Not for us.

Our scars, our brokenness, our sins do not need to define us. We are Easter people!

The Christ who gave himself for us on the cross, who revealed himself and his wounds in the upper room, gives himself to us again here, at this altar, in the Eucharist.

And the heart that once poured out water and blood and now pours out for us the font of God’s mercy.

When he declared this year a Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis composed a prayer that speaks in a beautiful way of the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the power of mercy:

“Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote, “you willed that your ministers would be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved and forgiven by God.”

May this feast of Divine Mercy open our hearts to receiving the mercy and grace God so wants to give to the world, so that we may know what it is to be “sought after, loved and forgiven by God.”

May we be moved to see with the eyes of the heart, and to acclaim with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

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