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The Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
April 3, 2016 

Click here to listen to this homily (mp4 file)

        Why do you suppose Thomas wasn't in the upper room with the others on that Easter evening?  I have a theory, although I know it’s presumptuous to speculate on what the scriptures don't tell us.  But, you know, it's even a little presumptuous to speculate on what the scriptures do tell us.  So bear with me for a moment.  John's Gospel account makes it clear that the apostle Thomas was not in the upper room on Easter evening when the risen Jesus appeared to his frightened followers and spoke to them those amazing, forgiving words, "Peace be with you!" But John leaves to our imagination just why Thomas wasn't there and where he was.

     So here’s my theory: Thomas wasn't there in that upper room because he didn't want to be there.  His world had fallen completely apart and people react differently when something like that happens.  One way is to seek the group.  That’s what most of the apostles did.  They found safety in numbers even if it meant huddling together behind locked doors.  But another reaction could be to cut and run -- to try to go back to life as it used to be -- before the great disillusionment -- to return to "normal" in the hope that that would somehow dull the pain and wipe out terrible memories. I think that’s what Thomas did, but I could be wrong, of course.

     All we know for sure is that Thomas was not in the upper room on Easter evening when Jesus came, and a week later, he was.  In those intervening days, did the other apostles scour the city to find their friend, bursting to share the incredible news, "We have seen the Lord!"?  It seems likely.  In any case, when Thomas heard the news he reacted to it just like we would have.   "Preposterous!"  "Impossible!"  "I'll believe it when I see it...."  And he did, of course.  A week later he saw Jesus and he believed, and the act of faith of this doubter became the greatest act of faith in all the gospels: "My Lord and my God!"  That same act of faith is, for all time, the prayer of struggling believers like you and me who want to believe, who do believe, but who sometimes question mightily and even doubt.  Time and again, with God’s grace, we make those words of Thomas our own, “My Lord and my God!”

     My friends, be grateful for the picture of faith we are given in today’s gospel reading. It is not easy or facile faith -- far from it!  It is faith mixed with fear -- the fear of grown men cringing behind locked doors; the faith of a skeptic who struggled against deep disillusionment and doubt.  It's a faith that rings very true for me -- so much so that sometimes I find myself thinking that if Thomas hadn't existed, the evangelists would surely have had to create him!  We need Thomas' doubt in the same way that we need Peter's denials.  How else could we lesser mortals ever believe ourselves called to discipleship?!

     Doubting Thomas gives hope to everyone who has ever doubted; he gives hope to the likes of you and me.  Maybe it’s no accident that the name Thomas means “twin.” Every one of us who struggles to believe is the twin of Thomas!

      And I would say that our faith is more remarkable than the faith of Thomas because we don’t get to probe the nail prints with our fingers or put our hand into the side of the risen Lord as he did.  We don’t.  We are among “those who have not seen yet have believed.”  And that makes us the very ones Jesus called blessed!

     Father Michael G. Ryan



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Seattle, Washington  98104
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