Sunday, April 27, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday Homily--Be a Believing Thomas

"It doesn't really matter what you believe, just as long as you believe something."  We've all heard statements like this somewhere along the way.  Or, we've heard that it doesn't really matter if someone believes or doesn't believe that Jesus is the Lord.  If those sentiments were true, there was no need for Jesus to go back to that Upper Room a second time.  I mean ten out of the remaining eleven apostles believed Christ.  That's a pretty good ratio.  And besides, if it doesn't really matter what one believes, why not call it a good day and forget about Thomas?  Jesus did go back to that room.  He went back out of a merciful love for Thomas.  Jesus wanted Thomas to believe so that through belief, Thomas could have life.

What we believe matters.  Who we believe matters.  

Now sometimes, we find ourselves trying to sound all cool by saying, "Well, I'm like Thomas.  I'm a real doubter."  No!  When Jesus came back to that upper room, he didn't say to Thomas, "Hey nice going Tom.  The rest of these guys all believed me, but you are much brighter than that.  Good job on being a doubter."  Jesus says, "Do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Jesus doesn't want us to be doubting Thomases.  He wants us to be believing Thomases!  This passage is recorded in the Scriptures not to encourage us to remain in a perpetual state of doubting, but to move us from doubters to believers. 

Believing someone is a beautiful experience.  When somebody believes us, it really is a wonderful feeling.  Without seeing for themselves, they simply trust our word.  We love when people believe us.  And when somebody doesn't believe us, doesn't drive you crazy?  If somebody says, "Oh yes, I believe you.  I just want to see it myself," the translation of that is: "I don't believe you!"  In the Christian life, we are constantly called to move from doubt to belief.  Eventually, we will no longer be believers.  Do you know that there are no believers in heaven?  That's because the people in heaven see.  They no longer believe because they see.

The other day I married a couple.  Now, in some ways, it would be a lot easier if the couple could unscrew a little cap in each other's head and look inside to see, "Oh yeah, there it is.  The love meter says that she really loves me."  But that isn't how it works.  That couple I married the other day spoke words to each other: "I will love and honor you the rest of my life."  Each one spoke those words because they believed each other.  There is something so beautiful about that.  When it comes to Faith, we are believing God.  That's really beautiful.

St. Peter reminded us in the second reading that sometimes, we have to believe amid much tribulation.  When our Faith is challenged by the turmoil that afflicts us, this is an opportunity to live an even deeper faith!  This is to say, "I don't feel like believing, but I am going to because Jesus is trustworthy."  

Sometimes, we wish that we could figure it all out, see it for ourselves plainly.  We sometimes find ourselves saying, "Well, if somebody could prove it to me scientifically, then I'd believe."  But this is not belief.  When I talk to kids about this, I sometimes will say to them, "I don't believe that any of you are sitting here right now."  Actually, I could say that to all of you here in the chapel.  I don't believe you are here.  Why?  Because I see you.  I don't need to believe it.  I see it.  But, if I were somewhere else, and one of you came to me and said, "There are two hundred students waiting for you at the chapel for Mass," I'd have to make a decision.  I'd have to decide if the person telling me this is trustworthy.  

We also sometimes think that if only Jesus would appear to us like he did to Thomas, then we would believe.  But, there is something really important that we often overlook in this Gospel account.  Jesus appears to Thomas and says, "Here I am.  Stick your finger into the nail marks and put your hand into my side."  (I've always found this a little gross.)  Thomas, however, sees one thing but believes something much more.  Thomas sees his old friend Jesus raised from the dead.  This could have been some miracle that had occurred.  (Much like the miracle of Lazarus).  Thomas saw his old friend Jesus risen from the dead, but he didn't exclaim, "Hey, it's my old friend Jesus and he's alive!"  That would have been a reasonable thing to say.  No, instead he says, "My Lord and my God."  There was nothing in that scene that proved that Jesus was God.  Granted, Thomas was given some special gifts, but he still had to come to believe.  He had come to faith.  My Lord and my God.

What we believe and who we believe matters.  In his mercy, Jesus comes to us again and again and offers us the chance to move from being doubters to being believers.  He does this so that we can have eternal life.  When we believe, we believe Him.  We believe that he is "my Lord and my God."  On this Feast of Divine Mercy, let us remember that Jesus' mercy is given so that we can have life and this life comes to us through Faith in the crucified and Risen Jesus; the one who is Lord and God.

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