At this Eucharistic meal the Lord provides for us his flesh as real food and his blood as real drink for the nourishment of our hearts. While it is true that the Lord appreciates, actually expects our contribution, symbolized by our collection and by the bread and wine, what the Lord welcomes most of all is Tom, that part of our soul that can be dubbed “Doubting Thomas.”
He wants our doubting self, so that he may transform him and bring the best out of each one of us. This transformation is produced by Christ even on people who have messed up as badly as Peter who denied him three times or as badly as Thomas who wanted to probe the nail marks and touch the gashing wound on his chest. Or like John, who used to get so upset and be impetuous and demanding of anyone else that Jesus had nicknamed him and his brother “sons of thunder.” Or even like Paul who, for many years, had been proud of his Pharisaic observance of the Mosaic Law instead of relying on the infinite love of the Lord.
The readings in these Sundays after Easter cover the radical transformation that the Lord brought about in everyone’s life through his resurrection.
Listed today, on the Second Sunday of Easter are: (1) the newly-found boldness of the Apostles who had fled when Jesus was arrested; (2) the miraculous power transferred from Jesus to all of them, Peter in particular; (3) the bearing witness of John to the Word on the island of Patmos and, of course, (4) the discovery made by Thomas about his love for Jesus and of Jesus’ love for him.
We might be afraid of or embarrassed by the occasional or persistent doubts in our hearts, but the Lord repeats to us, with his soothing voice as he did with John on the island of Patmos: “There is nothing to fear. I am the First and the Last and the One who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
Such a reassuring statement means that our doubts, our hesitations, our fears, our sins, our mottled past, even any betrayals, are now easily within his eternal power of transformation encompassing everyone who dares to come to him—anyone on the face of the earth. Thus, confident in the boundless compassion of our Lord and in the majestic power of his resurrection, we shall dare to look at the “doubting Thomas” in our hearts.
Here is the starting point: We love Jesus! We love him more than we give ourselves credit for, just as the original Thomas loved Jesus. When everyone else was trying to convince him to steer clear of Jerusalem, Thomas told the other apostles: “Let us go and die with him!” (John 11:16). This is love; imperfect if you will, but love nonetheless.
Looking at my “doubting Thomas,” these are some of the doubts I found in him: what if someone were to ruin my reputation in such a way that my life would become unbearable…would I be able to forgive and to accept the new challenge?
What if I was in a terrible accident and suddenly I was to become heavily dependent on others even for my most personal needs, will I be able to welcome their help without feeling humiliated?
Even more difficult than that: will I be humble enough to accept myself whenever the Lord might reveal to me that I am guilty of many of the failings that I judge and condemn in others with ease, repeatedly and without hesitation?
Am I, who preach so freely to others, capable of putting most of it into practice? What if I were asked to choose between losing my life for Christ and reaching a compromise….will I bear witness to him to the very end?
As death nears, will there be someone to hold my hand and comfort me by reminding me of the Lord’s infinite mercy?
I guess that the “doubting Thomas” hidden in your hearts has similar doubts.
In our pride, like Thomas, we might find it perfectly suitable to demand irrefutable evidence of his presence, of his power, of his resurrection…similar in all to probing the nail prints and the wound on his chest.
After all, we have invested our entire emotional life on him.
With calmness and serenity, today, we are called to reflect on our situation and to move from feeling “outside” his Resurrection to being assured sharers in it. We will soon realize that it is unrealistic to expect a solid guarantee that we will be faithful to him, obey his laws every time, have smooth sailing through thick and thin and to be always beyond reproach. This kind of expectation will leave us still outside his Resurrection—a living anachronism.
There is nothing we can do to change the facts, the evidence of his transforming power, the evidence that he lives again, the ultimate proof of his love. The cross and the resurrection are events that took place before we did anything right. Actually they happened when we were at our lowest ebb (cf. Romans 5:8).
Before this evidence of undisputed, boundless love, Paul was moved to tears of joy and gratitude. Peter surrendered unconditionally to his mercy and Thomas fell to his knees and cried out “My Lord and my God.” No more need to probe, to touch, to feel the evidence that we thought so important before.
Hence, today, we shall bring to Jesus our “doubting Thomas” so that, by looking at him crucified, by contemplating the overwhelming evidence of his love, by sharing in his Eucharistic meal once again we may hear him saying to each one of us: “There is nothing to fear. I am the First and the Last and the One who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.”
Do not be afraid. Live in the forgiveness, in the compassion of my resurrection. I have loved you, just the way you were. I love you just the way you are. Your doubts, your hesitations, your mistakes, are precisely the reason why I died, but now I live and you, too, will live always in my love.