Some of my best friends are skeptics. They are the people in my life who are always challenging and thus are the most interesting people that I have had the pleasure to know. Here is an illustration that might explain my position on skeptics. There was a smart young college student who announced to his friends one day: “I will not believe anything that I cannot understand.” Then one of his friends who lived on a farm turned and said to him. As I was driving to school today, I passed through all our fields that make up our farm and I saw some of our sheep who were grazing and contently eating grass. “Do you believe it; he asked his friend?” Sure, I do he replied. “Then further down the road I saw some of our calves chewing on the grass, do you believe it.” Yes, I guess so, his friend again replied. “And then just before I left our farmland, there were a bunch of geese feeding on the grass near the pond where they live and swim, do you believe it.” Sure, I do, he said a bit frustrated at this line of questioning. Well, he said to doubt-filled friend, “the grass that the sheep ate will turn to wool, the grass the calves ate will turn into hair, and the grass that the geese ate will turn into feathers. “Do you believe this?” Ummm, yes, I do! “But do you understand it? To which his friend honestly answered…. “not really.” Then he told his unsure friend; “you know if you live long enough, you’ll find that there are a great many things that you will believe without fully understanding.
Today’s gospel appears every year on this Sunday after we celebrate the Lords resurrection. Therefore, it is an important message that we need to hear repeatedly. It proclaims that the risen Christ is often in our midst in ways that we do not expect, and even though Jesus is risen, we still have to confront the mystery and the glory of the wounds that He endured for us. This was what the disciples were literally hiding from, the fact that Jesus indeed died, and they were paralyzed by their own fear. Despite Mary Magdalene announcing that she had seen the Lord, they doubted her message to them. Even after Peter and young John had reported that the tomb was empty and no one could have stolen His body, the other disciples were still unbelieving. Now, locked together in a room for fear that they too would be punished by crucifixion, Jesus appears and says to them: “Peace be with you.” Stunned, frightened out of their wits, He tries to further convince them by showing his crucified hands and pierced side. It was only then that they believed. It took a combination of words and visual proof that, the crucified Lord standing before them was indeed the risen Christ. But the plot of the gospel thickens because Thomas was not present with them at this time. Later when he was told about what they heard and saw…he doubted his fellow disciples. Even though he was a staunch follower of Jesus his lack of belief persisted. He wanted proof…he needed to see for himself that what the Lord had promised about Himself was true. And that’s when Jesus stands before Thomas and provides the undeniable proof…it’s me, Tommy!
Just what is faith anyway? Here is an opinion from the well-know, television theologian, Archie Bunker: “It ain’t supposed to make sense---it’s faith! Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.” Yes, Archie…faith is a gift and most gifts do not come with an explanation; they are the explanation that someone loves you very much. That is the gift that Jesus gives us with His resurrection…He loves us and will not allow death to hold onto Him or us forever. Archie is partly correct. Showing that faith is not unreasonable and does not make every revealed truth look logical. One and only one God—but three distinct, divine persons within this one God? You better believe it! Pope Francis perhaps is someone whose word you might find more convincing then Archie's. He said: “No one deserves faith. No one can buy it. It is a gift. Through praise, we prove our faith and belief that Jesus was sent to forgive sins.”
That young college student questioned his friend about things that he would have to ‘take-on-faith’ and believe. He had the proof in the sheep’s wool, the calves hair, and the geese’s feathers…but he did not fully understand how it was possible. The disciples heard His words, saw His crucified flesh, learned of the empty tomb, had confirmation from Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, but they remained skeptical until they experienced Jesus offering them ‘Peace’. The resurrection of Jesus, give us, His followers, peace. We are no longer captive to drama, even the challenges of a pandemic virus, or anything else that wants to hold us down forever. Faith is that God has the upper hand, that His arms are always there to embrace us, and that the Holy Spirit is forever in our faith-respiratory system. This Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us that the gift of faith comes from God’s infinite mercy. I started out by saying that some of my best friends are skeptics, the same is true for some of Jesus’.