Every Divine Mercy Sunday, I am filled with gratitude for the Gospel that is read at Mass. I have always deeply loved the Apostle Thomas. His exclamation to the other eleven (see John 11:26) after they questioned Jesus’ willingness to return to Judea where He had almost been stoned to death, paired with Thomas’ bold prayers in the Resurrection account (see John 20:24,28) won me over.
My fondness for Thomas is also due to the fact that I identify with him.
What’s There to Say about Thomas?
He was devoted. He was maybe a bit fiery in his statements and quick to show his passion, but a chicken when it came down to the moment of standing by Christ on the Cross.
During the first years of my conversion, I was on fire. I wanted to serve the Lord for the rest of my life–but it was my way or the highway! My prayers were often filled with great desires and big proclamations but I fell short when it came to fleeing from sin and bowing low in humility or handing over my plans to the Lord and trusting Him.
When I think of Thomas, who had been more or less faithful to the similar degree of the others and yet was not accounted for when Jesus showed up to the party, I can almost feel the sting! I can understand and empathize with his prayer made in passion; he also likely felt sadness as his friends were blessed with Christ’s presence once more but he somehow missed the call.
Why them and not me?
Jesus Showed Up... But Where was Thomas?
After the massive, history-changing, divine life-restoring ordeal of the Cross, the disciples–most of whom did not yet understand the immense mercy that had just been poured out on the whole world–met in fear, locked away somewhere (see John 20:19). Thomas was out and about. Maybe he was “hangry” and went out for a bite to eat or really needed to get some fresh air after being locked up in that room all day. All we know is that Thomas missed it. The Risen Lord showed up and he was not there.
I know how much I would have stomped my feet and pouted if Jesus would have come into that room without me being there!
Thomas then makes the bold statement:
Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. // John 20:24
It was a request and a prayer as much as it was a glaring declaration. Was Thomas just being stubborn or entitled? Could he really be so incredulous after seeing so many miracles? Could he doubt, even now, after hearing the declaration of truth made by his brothers: “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:24). These very same brothers who were once filled with fear now confirmed the proclamation of the Magdalene (see John 20:18). I wonder if there was not more to this request.
What was Thomas Really Seeking?
I do not think Thomas was demanding a sign for the sign’s sake. I believe he was really seeking intimacy; demanding to be remembered, to be seen.
His act of faith, “My Lord and my God!” arose immediately after Jesus came in their midst and addressed to Thomas a unique invitation. Our Lord used almost word for word the tri-fold prayer Thomas made just a week before (see John 20:27).
The Gospel account does not relate that Thomas actually put his hands in the side of Christ, although the Carvaggio depiction is beautiful. One could infer, then, that Thomas’ act of profound faith came as a result of an experience. In that moment–in that exchange of words and silence–Thomas knew that Jesus knew him, saw him, heard his prayer and remembered him.
What are We Seeking?
This Divine Mercy Sunday, as we hear about the message of Our Lord to the polish Saint, Faustina, let us put ourselves in Thomas’ shoes (well, more like sandals).
What would we demand of Jesus in order to believe that He is truly alive and well? Would it be about seeing Him and placing our hands in His wounds? Or, rather, would it be to know that He has heard every prayer we have ever prayed and that He has not forgotten about us? That one prayer that you have not even managed to say out loud but have kept as a hidden thought in your heart? He knows it and He remembers.
Return to the rooms of fear, betrayal, and distrust in your life. Go to those places where you feel that the Lord has forgotten you, does not care for you, or does not know you in your depths. Go there and ask Jesus, Risen and Glorious in His Wounds, to speak to you the very same words of intimacy and invitation that He made to Thomas.
From Doubt to Faith on this Divine Mercy Feast
Thomas was dubbed “doubtful” but, in fact, he was filled with faith after this encounter with “Love and Mercy Itself” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1074). As we welcome Our Risen Lord into these places in our hearts, may we be ready to be astounded and to be transformed by His mercy.
When we speak of mercy, we speak of a help that cannot be earned but is generously given; a gesture that is extravagant in its fruit and expansive in its scope. It is also immensely personal. The Lord, Who is all “tenderness and compassion” (see Joel 2:13), full of mercy and endless love, sees you. He knows you. May this encounter with the Risen Lord free us more deeply and bring us to greater faith.
I invite you to take time this weekend to pray with this Gospel and discover the ways in which the Lord abounds in mercy towards you. Perhaps you may even consider availing yourself of the plenary indulgence that has become bound with this holy day.
Take in all of His mercy today and always–it is for you!