From the Pulpit: April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017                                     Second Sunday of Easter

Introduction

Who was this man called Thomas? In the gospel for today he and Jesus stand out as the main characters.

  • What do we know about Thomas? He appears to be sort of a tough guy and one of the 12 apostles.
  • His real name in Aramaic was Te’oama which means twin. He was also called Didymus which in Greek meant the same thing.
  • So, he was likely a twin. Some scholars believe he was the twin of St. Matthew.
  • Because of today’s Gospel story, Thomas is also nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.”
  • Obviously, Thomas was a man of intensity, yet skeptical
  • From the Gospels, we know that he loved Jesus and was intensely committed as one of his disciples.
  • No doubt he saw in Jesus the Messiah and the longed for revelation of God’s kingdom.
  • Perhaps, after witnessing the crucifixion, Thomas became more skeptical and refused to believe anything. Probably he was crushed and disappointed.

The gospel

This perhaps is the background for the story that unfolds in today’s gospel.

  • Jesus appears to his disciples on Easter Sunday evening. Obviously they are incredulous with joy.
  • Jesus is very much alive and shows his hands and his feet. For some unknown reason, Thomas was not with them.
  • Later on, they announced to him that Jesus is alive and has appeared to them.
  • Skeptic that he is, Thomas refuses to believe. Then he makes that the familiar statement, “unless I am able to touch the place where the nails where and put my hand on his side, I will never believe.”
  • As Jesus appears one week later, Thomas is present. Jesus stands before the disciples and calls out Thomas.
  • I suppose Thomas just stood there and looked. He could hardly believe what he was seeing.
  • Yes, Jesus was very much alive.
  • Jesus then said, “Thomas, come here. Touch my hands and my side. Do not be unbelieving but believe!”
  • We don’t know whether Thomas ever came forward and touched Jesus, but he responded: “My Lord and My God!”

Divine Mercy

This is Divine Mercy Sunday. The mercy of God is revealed in the wounds of Jesus.

  • They figure prominently in the story for this Sunday as well as the image of God’s own Divine Mercy.
  • For some reason, Jesus chose to keep the wounds of his crucifixion.
  • In a sense, they remind us of human cruelty yet the triumph of divine love.
  • That love is revealed explicitly in the image of the divine mercy.
  • Jesus extends the mercy of the father with his extended hands.

The word that is used to time and again in Scripture to describe God’s mercy is the Hebrew word “hasesed”

  • There is no direct translation for this word. Often times it is translated as “mercy.”
  • However, it is much richer in its meaning than the word mercy implies.
  • Sometimes it is translated as covenant love.
  • It is a mercy or love that comes from the heart of the father which is unconditional, undeserved and relentless.
  • God’s mercy knows no bounds. There is nothing that you or I could ever do to make God regret and take back his mercy from us.
  • The hand of God’s mercy is always extended to us with no strings attached.

Story of mercy and forgiveness – the car accident

Let me tell you a story about human forgiveness and mercy. This is really an amazing story.

  • Several years ago there was a tragic accident north of Casper on interstate 25.
  • A family was moving from Montana to a new destination.
  • They were pulling a trailer filled with their belongings.
  • Unfortunately, they got a flat tire and had to pull off to the side of the interstate to change it.
  • As the young son was helping his father change the tire, a driver about 20 or 21 years old, high on drugs and speeding, plowed right into them
  • The father died at the scene while the little boy died shortly thereafter. They were survived by the mother and three small children.
  • Several days later, they showed up at St. Patrick’s to talk to me and asked for assistance. Of course, we did what we could.
  • I couldn’t imagine the sorrow and heartbreak of that family as they lost their father and one of their little brothers.
  • At the end of our time together, the mother looked at me, took me by the hand and looked into my eyes and said, “Father, I just want you to know that we have forgiven the young man who took our father and my little son.”
  • My heart was breaking for them.

Several months later I got a phone call from a woman in Minneapolis who wanted me to visit her son before he was sent to prison.

  • I went up to the Natrona County Jail and the young man that I visited was the one who had killed the father and his little son in the traffic accident.
  • We visited at length and he told me how much he regretted his actions. He told me, “Father, by the time I get out of prison I’ll be about 40 or 50 years old.”
  • Indeed, it was a very sad situation.
  • At the end of our conversation after I gave him a blessing, I told him that the family told me something that I thought he should know.
  • I told him that they forgave him for what he had done to them. The young man broke down and cried, and cried. He couldn’t believe they would do that.

In that little story, I was reminded of the boundless, unconditional mercy of the God.

  • I must confess, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do that.
  • It was a moment that I will never forget.

Conclusion

In his apostolic exhortation, Misericordia Vultus, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus is the face of Father’s mercy.

  • Remember Jesus forgave those who crucified him.
  • Remember, Jesus forgave his disciples who abandon him in fear.
  • He will always remain the face of the divine mercy. As the father is merciful, so we must be merciful.