|What the Year of Mercy Must Not Become.
The Second Sunday of Easter; or, the Sunday of Divine Mercy.
Lessons from the secondary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:*
• Acts 4: 32-35.
• Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24.
• I John 5: 1-6.
• John 20: 19-31.
The Octave Day of Easter, known as Low Sunday.
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I John 5: 4-10.
• John 20: 19-31.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the typicon of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite:
• Acts 5: 12-20.
• John 20: 19-31.
7:53 AM 4/12/2015 — It is important to notice that our Lord does not blame Thomas for requiring proof of the Resurrection; after all, the other apostles would have been no less incredulous, since the only reason they believed it was because they had seen our Lord. What’s interesting is that our Lord does not discourage the notion that faith needs to be based on some sort of credible grounds that make sense. When He appears to the apostles the second time, and Thomas is finally with them, while He does make the statement, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20: 29 NABRE), He still invites Thomas to touch his holy wounds. He’s willing to surrender the principle that faith should be blind. His statement presents the ideal, but the ideal is tempered by reality and an understanding of fallen human nature.
Without a doubt, the most joyful periods of my long years as the pastor of a number of parishes were those occasions when I received converts into the Church at Easter time. And in the Byzantine Catholic Church in which I served as a pastor there is no such thing as the RCIA; convert instruction is done the old fashioned way, one on one. And there are two ways to go about instructing converts: you can take a didactic approach and just throw the truths of the faith out there, declare them revealed by God—which they are—and simply demand that the convert blindly accept them without question; but, this is not what we do for the simple reason that this isn’t what our Lord did. Yes, He did say, “Blessed are they who have not seen, yet believe,” but he also spoke about the seed that falls into rocky ground, which sprouts up very quickly with enthusiasm, but is blown away at the first wind of trouble because it's not planted in good enough soil and its roots are not deep enough (cf. Matt. 13: 20-21). When our Lord shows Thomas His wounds, He’s not compromising the truth, He’s just planting the seed in better soil; and, given the fact that Thomas, as a missionary, carried the Gospel farther than any other apostle, I don’t think any of us can find reason to quarrel with the results. And with all due respect to our Holy Father and his good intentions for the "Year of Mercy," the life of the Blessed Apostle Thomas after the Gospels shows us that guilt, far from being a negative thing, can motivate us to do great things.
Man is a divine being, created by God with an immortal soul, but that soul has been tainted with sin. Our fallen nature compromises our divinity. Our faith should be blind, but the simple fact is that it isn’t. Saint John Henry Newman, who was a convert himself and who spent a lot of time working with converts, used to sum it up this way: “A hundred questions do not equal one single doubt.” After all, a person who outright doubts the faith is looking for a way out; he’s looking for a way not to believe because he doesn’t want to sacrifice the things that the faith will require from him, because a doubt does not seek an answer; it seeks an escape. But a person who questions is looking for a way in, because a question seeks an answer; and, one cannot seek an answer sincerely without wanting to find it; and, when he finds it, he conforms himself to it.
It is, therefore, to our benefit to take notice of the manner which our Lord chose to strengthen the faith of Thomas: He doesn't perform any miracle, He doesn't burst into the room with a blast of trumpets. Later, He would eat in the presence of His disciples to prove He was real, but He doesn’t even do that on this occasion. For the very first test of His Resurrection, our Lord simply shows Thomas the marks of His passion. That is significant. And, again, with all due respect to the Holy Father and his desire to soften the image of the Church, our Blessed Lord's manner of dealing with Thomas' doubt is meant to caution us against any presentation of the Christian message which seeks to eliminate the Cross and the crucifixion, against anyone who would try to soften Christ so that he becomes a mild and likable teacher of social principles, those for whom the mystery of the Cross and it’s implications in their personal and practical lives are too harsh, those for whom the repentance, asceticism and sacrifice for which the Cross stands are simply unacceptable.
By showing His wounds to Thomas, Christ is warning us to reject the false “Christs” that these deniers of the Cross set up for us. Like Thomas, we insist on looking at and touching the wounds of our Lord, because we know that a “Christ” who does not carry the imprint of the nails is not authentic, and we shall reserve our adoration for the Crucified One alone. Only the Christ who shows us that the road to heaven is the Way of the Cross is the One to whom we shall say, “My Lord and my God.”
* In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite on this day, the first lesson, psalm and second lesson are variable according to the dominical cycle for the given year, while the Gospel lesson is always proper.
** In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, from Easter Saturday until the end of Paschaltide, the Gradual Psalm is omitted.