St. Thomas and the touch of Christ

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2nd Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), Year A:
April 27, 2014

Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118; 1 Pet 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

A week and a half ago we marked Good Friday, when our Lord Jesus was unjustly condemned and made to die a criminal’s death upon a cross. To make sure he was really dead, one of the soldiers thrust his lance into his side, into his Sacred Heart, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (John 19:34) And his dead body was placed into the tomb.

On the third day, he rose again, triumphant over death, and transformed, the firstfruits of the Resurrection. And he appeared to a number of his disciples, and what a difference it made for them! They rejoiced! Joy and peace are all over this account; and still there, some 50 days later in the reading from the Book of Acts: awe, signs and wonders, exultation. Alleluia, Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! Alleluia!

But one disciple wasn’t sharing in it: St. Thomas. Because that first Easter Sunday night he wasn’t there, and he didn’t see the risen Christ.

We call him Doubting Thomas, and that actually isn’t entirely accurate. It is and it isn’t. Let me explain. Thomas wasn’t intellectually doubting. And the reason why I say this is because of so much that he didn’t say. He didn’t say, “It isn’t true.” He didn’t say, “It can’t be true, the dead cannot be raised, because…” and give reasons. He didn’t say, “You are telling me that you saw him alive but I know that what really happened is…” No, none of this.

No, I think we can only call what Thomas is doing “doubting” in an emotional or personal sense, not an intellectual one. I think he really did believe that Christ was risen! But he was hurting. He was hurting from the trauma of Christ’s death; maybe even from having seen it from a distance, and having seen that lance go into his side. And he was hurting from not having been included: from the other disciples having seen Jesus, but not him. And he wanted to see Jesus again, personally; to touch him; to be healed by him. He wanted it; he needed it!

And sometimes I meet people like this: who want to personally experience Christ; who see other people around them experiencing him; but it hasn’t yet happened for them. And how deeply they want this encounter!

The problem with Thomas was not that he cried out to the Lord in his need; it was that he hit back, refused to cooperate, refused to “believe” until he had gotten what he wanted. It was as if he went to his room and pouted. But our Lord Jesus, in his merciful love for Thomas, reached out to him. He gave him the encounter that he wanted; he gave him the personal touch that he needed. And St. Thomas responded with that ringing profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

St. Thomas had been touched by our Lord Jesus’ mercy. He asked for what he needed, in his humanness and his smallness; and the Lord, from his generous riches, provided it to him. And what did he need?

  • Forgiveness of sins, certainly. For our sins ravage our souls and cause so much harm to others; and deserve great punishment. And our Lord in his mercy offers forgiveness.
  • But much more than that. Our lists of the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy remind us of our many human needs: for food, drink, clothing, a home; for instruction, encouragement, and comfort. And our Lord in his mercy provides these too.

Mercy is what St. Thomas needed, and what he received. And mercy is what the risen Christ offers us too, and to the world through his Church. In 1962, as Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, he spoke of the use of the “medicine of mercy.”

And how awesome it is when the Lord reaches out to us in mercy, and heals us and fills us with exactly what we need. On occasion I will find myself speaking to someone who is in the situation of St. Thomas: who wants to touch the Lord, who needs to experience him personally, who knows that this has happened to so many others around them; but not to them. It is so often said with tears, of faith and longing. And often I have had the privilege of helping them to find this at last: through confession, sometimes through the anointing of the sick, sometimes through the Unbound method of prayer and deliverance.

For our Lord knows us and loves us; he will heal our wounds; he will give us that contact with him that we desire; in his mercy, he will bring us to faith. If this describes you, please consider contacting me in the office to see if I can help you to find what you have been looking for, for so long.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical on mercy (Dives in misericordia), wrote that God’s mercy is “more powerful than sin, more powerful than death.” We remember that, when that soldier pierced Christ’s heart upon the cross, it was blood and water that flowed out: the water of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. In the Divine Mercy image given to St. Faustina Kowalska, these become two great rays of light shining forth from his Heart. And we need them both.

  • We need to know that the shame we feel at our sin will not win, but will be overcome by the white light, by the pure water, of Divine Mercy, in baptism and in confession. Shame and guilt will not win; Mercy will.
  • And we need to know that every threat, every pain, even death itself will not win, but was overcome in our Lord’s Resurrection; and we draw near to this risen Lord upon the altar in the Eucharist, receiving his own Body and Blood, bathed in his light. Death will not win; Mercy will.

How much has the Risen Lord given us in his Mercy! As we heard St. Peter write to us: in his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable…

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Heb 4:16) Let us, like St. Thomas, put out our hands and ask for what we need. His Divine Mercy is more powerful than sin; it is more powerful than death. It pours forth; it shines brilliantly. It is exactly the medicine that we need.

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