Second Sunday of Easter – Year B

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Robert P. Hagan, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Readings
Acts 4:32-35
Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Jn 5:1-6
Jn 20:19-31

When you are grieving do not stop believing!

Having just buried my own mother at the start of Holy Week I am grateful to the apostle Thomas for offering us all a crash course in grieving the loss of a loved one. As people of faith, we all strive to trust in the promises of Christ and the spirit of the resurrection. Still when death seizes our loved ones we can be left feeling very much like Thomas. The notion that life has changed not ended can be dwarfed by feelings of sorrow, loss, and separation.

The scriptures tell us that Thomas was called Didymus, which means twin. And as people of faith with bouts of skepticism from time to time, maybe there is a little Thomas in all of us. We all have a twin side…a duality within us. The side that believes and the side that doubts… The side that stands up with courage and the side that weakens with fear. The side that welcomes community and the side that retreats in isolation. The side that wants to do the right thing according to Jesus’ way and teaching and the side that questions: “Is it all really worth it?” Good days and bad days…part of the group and the lone ranger.

Thomas is grieving. He feels like we do! He misses his friend and the companionship terribly. He was aware of the situation and followed Jesus even though he knew that Jesus was at great risk of being harmed and killed in this world. Now it happened and doubt has overcome him.

Thomas feels doubly upset because he missed a meeting with his community, and they have experienced the resurrection of the Lord, and he didn’t! He had invested as much in his relationship with Jesus as they did and now everyone else is moved with this great understanding and Thomas is still sitting in his grief and despair.

Who knows why Thomas was not there the first time? Maybe he just could not bear to go out and be with the group yet. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to put on his happy face and go outside. But it is important to note that whatever it was that kept Thomas from the group and away from the community, he did not remain in isolation. He stayed with a community of faith. And a week later Jesus appeared to them again. And this time Thomas was with them! Yes, he was down and discouraged but he did not abandon community. He did not abandon his questioning faith and ultimately experienced the risen Jesus for himself!

Thomas has his doubts. “Unless I put my finger into the print of the nails and unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe. “ Note, Jesus does not condemn Thomas for doubting. Jesus does not chastise him for questioning. Rather he affirms his critical thinking: “Here Thomas, if this is what you need, put your hand in my hand and my side…and see that you might believe.” Thomas listens to Jesus and then makes the greatest confession of faith in all of scripture. He directly links Jesus and God! “My Lord and my God.” Jesus addresses all of us who come after Thomas when He says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.” This is a great call for all of us to strive to see with the eyes of faith when everything is not so clear. God will provide grace for us to see what lies beneath the surface or is hidden behind our tears.

Jesus teaches us through Thomas that even when we are grieving, do not stop believing! We too can put our hand in the hand of Jesus and bring our doubts and fears to Him who knows our twin sides and fills us with the clarity and strength of the Holy Spirit.

We may have doubts in the face of what we want to believe, but we don’t abandon our faith completely. I doubt this marriage will get any better, but I am still committed to trying to work at it. I doubt I am the best person they could find for this job, but I am going to apply andtrust that God will show me where I can best use my gifts. I doubt that fraternities and sororities are anything more than cliques and places to drink beer, but I have trust I could find friends for life and opportunities to do real service in the community. I doubt I could be truly happy in the priesthood, but if God is calling me, I know I will find peace and happiness. I doubt this little piece of bread could be anything more…but “My Lord and my God.”

May we imitate Thomas and never abandon the community of faith. When things are dark and troubled and there seems to be no way in or out of it, may we trust in the power of Jesus who comes even when the doors are locked. Let us hold on to our faith even in the midst of doubts, hardship and questions, maybe especially in those times.

Saint Augustine says: “See what you believe and become what you see.” We come to truth not by giving up on what is sometimes difficult to understand or explain but rather continue our search for God in the face of it. May we find consolation in moments when we see and experience the real presence of God working in our life. May we trust and believe even when we cannot see. May we blindly take the hand of Jesus who leads us to peace, hope and unity with one another.

Just like the song says: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”