Divine Mercy Sunday
April 8, 2018
Who can blame Thomas for doubting that Jesus rose from the dead? After all, it
had never happened before. I think Thomas gets a bit of a bum rap here. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection, and when Jesus sees her, he gives her a commission: Go and tell my disciples the good news. So, Mary goes and finds the disciples – she knows where to look even though they were in hiding – and when she tells them, what is their reaction? Disbelief -- all eleven of them.
Thomas was not with the others, but that’s not the reason for his unbelief – when Mary Magdalene came and announced that Jesus was alive, at first none of them could believe it. Thomas has been labeled the doubter, but he is in a way a stand-in for all of us who live in a skeptical age. Like Thomas, none of us were present when Christ rose from the dead either, nor were we in the locked room where he appeared, nor were we with the 500 that he appeared to at one time. But we have something that Thomas and the other disciples did not have: Christ’s assurance to us from this Sunday’s gospel: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29
Jesus appears twice in this Sunday’s gospel, and on both occasions Jesus shows the disciples his wounds. Why does he do this? First, so that they will not think they are seeing a ghost; second, to demonstrate that the person they see before them is the same one they saw crucified three days earlier; and third, to show them what he had done for them.
Jesus does not normally appear to people as he did in the New Testament. No, he wants us to have faith in the Scriptures, and this is a greater blessing than if we were to actually see him with our eyes. We gain more graces by not seeing him. However, there are ways that he does show himself to us, even if they are in more hidden ways, and one of these is through his wounds.
Jesus promised that whenever we befriend another wounded human being in any way, we are always taking care of him. From now on, Jesus will appear in various guises, most notably the Eucharist and the Scriptures, but he will also be in our midst in a special way as the wounded among us. This is a good thing to keep in mind when we join the St Vincent de Paul Society or donate something, staff the food bank, drop off food or help with Interfaith Hospitality (for example). When we work to help others at home, school, work or those we encounter every day, Jesus is especially present in our sufferings that we share and try to alleviate in others. When Jesus encounters the disciples for the first time, it is no accident that he shows them first his wounds.