Acts 4: 32-35; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20: 19-31
Appearance to the Disciples
Fr. Mark Link, SJ in his homily book, Illustrated Sunday Homilies Year B, made a supposition that if you are called up to the lectern and blindfolded and a bucket full of water is placed in front of you. You are asked if it was empty or full. What are your ways you can learn the answer such inquiry without removing the blindfold?
Fr. Link said that there are three ways we can learn to answer such question:
One way is to reach into the bucket and feel if there is water in it. In other words, you can experience firsthand if the bucket is full or empty. This way of learning is called experiencing. It’s knowledge that we acquire by firsthand experience. This way of acquiring knowledge is called experiencing. It’s knowledge that our senses give us.
The second way of learning if the bucket has water or has none is to drop an object like a coin, into it. If the object hits the bottom of the bucket with a loud or ringing sound, you know the bucket is empty. On the other hand, if the object hits with a slurp or a splash, you know the bucket contains water. This way of acquiring knowledge is called reasoning.
A third way to learn if the bucket contains water is to ask someone you trust. The person could look into the bucket and tell you if it has water in it. This way of learning is called believing. It’s knowledge that we acquire by faith.
But of the three ways of acquiring knowledge, that is, by experiencing, reasoning and believing, by which way do we learn most of our knowledge? Is it by experiencing, by reasoning or by believing? If we said believing g, then you and I are correct. It is because some experts estimate that we learn as much as 80 percent of our knowledge in this way. Like for example, Fr. Link continued, few of us travelled around the world. The only way we know about most countries is by what others tells us. In other words, we trust the people who have been there. If they tell us there is a country called China and that its people do this or do that, we believe them.
Today is Second Sunday of Easter. And Second Sunday of Easter is called the day of the Doubting Thomas. It is because every year during this Sunday, the gospel being used is about Thomas who doubts that the Lord is raised from the dead. He doubts about this fact. It is because when the other apostles report to him that the Lord is risen and they have seen him, he said that unless he sees the mark of the nails in His hands and put his finger into the nail marks and put his hands into His side, he will not believe (v. 25). His way of acquiring knowledge is that of experiencing. Ours is different in acquiring religious knowledge. It is by way of believing. It is because most of our religious knowledge about Jesus comes from what the Scriptures and early Christians had said and we believe in them.
This Sunday is also called the Divine Mercy Sunday. It is because during the canonization of St. Faustina last April 30, 2000, in his homily, Pope John Paul II declared: “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’” So therefore, last May 23, 2000 the Congregation for Divine Worship decreed that, “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian World to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials the humankind will experience in the years to come.” Devotion to the Divine Mercy was promoted by St. Faustina Kowalska, canonized by Pope John Paul II, April 30, 2000.
But St. Thomas the Apostle does something which we should not do. Yes, the remaining eleven disciples, including St. Thomas are saddened by the death of Jesus. When all the disciples gather for a Sunday worship, as believers of Christ, what do we notice, Thomas is not there. Where is Thomas? He is nowhere to be found. The difference is that even if the other ten are saddened, they band together. On the other hand, Thomas detaches himself from the group. That is why when the Lord appears to them in order to be with them and strengthen in their hour of fear, Thomas is not with them. He does not enjoy the presence of the Risen Lord because he withdraws from the community of the disciples.
One priest from Africa said that Thomas is like one of these modern-day Christians who do not go to Church regularly on Sundays. Such people are not there in Church when Jesus comes to meet His people and to strengthen them in their faith. People today, like people of all times, do have a hunger for God. They are in search for the meaning of life. But they doubt whether the answer to these existential questions can be found within the four walls of the church. For this reason they are more disposed to spend time in social action, in work, and in intellectual pursuit rather than in church’s Sunday Mass. As a result, they remain with their doubts. Initially all the disciples had their doubts. But because of their encounter with the Risen Lord in their Sunday worship gathering, their doubt was turned into faith. Thomas missed that experienced.
One time, somebody asked me if what was written in the book, The Da Vinci Code, true or not. I happened also to read this novel and this was also made into a movie with Tom Hanks who acts as the Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon, the main character of the novel. The novel is a great fun. I enjoyed reading it immensely. However, the problem is that some, including the author Dan Brown, have taken seriously its account of Christian origins. As I was reading the book, I found myself asking, how can people fall for this book and read it? For sure the novel is exciting and it does confirm my current prejudices. I just hope readers will not stop with Dan Brown. So much more awaits the person who wants to know the rest of the story.
And my answer to the question from somebody who asked me was in as form of question also: “Did you read the Bible?” She answered, “I did not, Father.” “So, read the Bible first and then come back to me and I will tell the answer to your question.” Maybe some of us had read this novel but do we read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, just like how we read the novel? This is a concrete example of a doubting person.
But Thomas does not close his mind. Eight days later he is confronted with the evidence. It is reassuring that there is such a man as Thomas in the number of the apostles, neither gullible nor rigid.
Some of us come with doubts and questions about our Catholic faith in Christ. You are not alone. St. Thomas had his hesitations. Jesus does not ask you to leave behind your experience, reason and your reasoning mind. But before you can even examine the evidence, you need to free yourself of those hurts, maybe even anger, resentment which maybe clouding your mind. You need to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Then come to Jesus and find a place in his open wounds and believe in Him.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B
See Homily Option