Sunday Scripture readings for April 16, 2023, Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Acts 2:42-47 Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 1 Pt 1:3-9 Jn 20:19-31
Ours is a God who doesn’t give up on us easily
This Sunday gives us one of my favorite Gospel readings — a story of doubt that turns into belief, of stubbornness that gives way to assent and conversion. It is perfect for this Sunday of Divine Mercy. Among other things, it shows that Jesus is the Lord of do-overs.
In his generosity and mercy, Jesus offered one of his most troubled and doubt-ridden apostles — someone who even mocked the idea of the miraculous — a second chance.
That apostle, of course, is Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared after the resurrection. The rest of the apostles were understandably stunned — who wouldn’t be? — but when Thomas joined them and heard their astounding testimony, their eyewitness account of seeing the Lord, he couldn’t believe it. Not one bit. “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,” he said, “I will not believe.” He demanded more than something he could see; he needed physical evidence, to touch with his own hands Christ’s wounds.
What followed is an iconic moment for Christians, when “Doubting Thomas” became a steadfast believer. He saw, alright, but then he was invited by the one he saw to do what he mockingly considered undoable.
With that, his eyes were opened, his heart changed.
Thomas’s quick turnabout serves as a lesson to anyone who dares to doubt, disbelieve, or sneer at matters that others accept on faith. It says: the impossible is possible. The faithless can become faithful. Even the unbelieving can believe.
Countless men and women who entered the church at Easter can attest that, yes, it happens. 2000 years after Thomas, it continues to happen, in ways that can’t be explained. And it happens through the breathtaking gift of God’s mercy.
Jesus could have dismissed Thomas’s doubt and left him skeptical and scared. But he didn’t. He came back.
Jesus never considers us as undeserving of another chance. The Good Shepherd searches for his lost sheep; the worker of miracles doesn’t tire of doing anything he can to help the blind see.
Ours is a God who comes back, again and again, coaxing us to learn, to grow, to love, to believe. He doesn’t give up on us easily.
In the case of Thomas, Jesus did more than offer proof. He offered a second chance. He offered another opportunity to accept what seemed unacceptable. That gesture of mercy became an act of transformation — a way of not only helping an unbeliever believe, but of making him realize, profoundly, Christ’s real presence in his life and God’s transformative love at work in the world.
The lesson of this Gospel is two-fold: it teaches us the power of faith, of believing in what we cannot see; but it also illustrates the great breadth of God’s mercy, the Lord’s willingness to be patient and help us find our way.
How we need to remember that! In moments of despair or disillusion, when we may feel God is distant or indifferent, we need to believe. To trust. To have faith in the seemingly impossible generosity of his love and mercy. We need to hold fast to this enduring truth: Ours is a faith of second chances, of renewal, of forgiveness, of starting over. Easter is a glorious testament to that, reassuring us that even death doesn’t have the final word.
The story of Thomas takes that idea even further, to tell us that even lack of faith doesn’t have to define us.
The one-two punch of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday serves to let us know we shouldn’t give up on God, because he doesn’t give up on us. He keeps coming back.
Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacons Bench.” He serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.