The Faith of Saint Thomas
by Deacon John Hackett
A kindergarten teacher had a hard time getting her students to understand Easter. One five year old thought he would make her day. He shouted, “Christ died, was buried, and rose. If He saw His shadow, we would have six more weeks of winter.” In a book entitled The Great Thoughts, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, is quoted as saying, “I have never seen the slightest scientific proof for the religious theories of heaven and hell.” And in that, Edison was a genius.
But he was not a theologian. You see…if we can’t prove something by scientific proof, then we are not talking about faith. And faith, as the apostle Thomas (in our gospel today learned), is the point at issue in this Easter season. This doubting apostle, after his encounter with the Lord, had more in common with the 13th century Thomas Aquinas than with the 20th century Thomas Edison. Aquinas wrote: “The heart can go where the head has to leave off.” Unfortunately writers spend more time on Thomas the Inventor than they do on Thomas the Apostle. And that’s a pity. The apostle has much more to teach us about the answers to the ultimate questions than Edison.
You see, the apostle was a very complex and unique personality. That uniqueness may explain why Jesus chose him in the first place. It is probable that Our Lord was determined to use that personality of his for our education. Who knows? Possibly Mr. Edison learned in the course of his long life the wisdom of Ruth Graham, wife of the famous (recently departed) evangelist, Billy Graham. You may remember her famous quote: “It takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God.”
There are only three informative references to the apostle Thomas in the New Testament; each of them are in John’s Gospel. Interestingly, the Gospel of John was the last to be written and he may have concluded that the neglect of Thomas in earlier accounts did a serious injustice to Thomas himself…and to Catholics at large.
A composite work-up of Thomas’ psyche from John’s Gospel today tells us quite a bit about Thomas. He is pessimistic, stubborn as that famous “Missouri mule”, and subject to the all too common line that teaches seeing is believing. I remember a college student long ago who once told me: “I believe only what I can see.” And like you, I’ve heard that repeated many times. But she was convinced that she had coined the line.
Someone has noted Thomas had a question mark for a mind. His complicated psyche is graphically illustrated in the 16th century Caravaggio’s wonderful painting of Thomas putting his finger into Christ’s wound. We know the Gospel story and especially its happy ending. And I think Thomas would never forget that gut-wrenching line of his resurrected Leader, “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!” The doubting Thomas had received a lecture on faith that he would never forget. It’s a message which Edison never learned.
You see, Thomas (like us, so many times) had simply erred when he told the others that seeing is believing. But Christ taught the apostle that believing is seeing. The no longer doubting apostle would enthusiastically applaud the Christ that demonstrated to him that a strong faith sees the invisible, and receives the impossible. There was absolutely nothing uncertain about Thomas’ unqualified cry at the end: “My Lord and my God.” BTW, while Thomas was the last of the apostles to believe in the risen Christ, he was the first to make such an unequivocal confession of Christ’s divinity. In a millisecond, his faith had taken a quantum leap.
Now, on an interesting note, the Gospels tell us Thomas had a twin. So, who is his twin? Well, I suspect it may be you and I. It’s been said that we are all a mixture of doubt and certainty, pessimism and trust, unbelief and belief. On those days, when doubt, pessimism, and unbelief hold the cards, we must hold onto Thomas and not let go for dear life. The 6th century St Gregory realized the value of Thomas to Christendom at large. He wrote: “The slow surrender of Thomas is of more advantage to strengthen our faith than the more ready faith of all the believing apostles.” And of course, John the gospel writer realized this point centuries before Gregory. So thankfully he let us in on Thomas’ story.
As we leave today, we might want to say a prayer in gratitude for such a person as the apostle Thomas. But in addition, each one of us will want to reflect on the admonition I’m sure you have heard – that it is not sufficient for Catholics (or any Christian group, for that matter) to simply only believe their faith. They must also tell others about it. And as we just celebrated the 50 anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, you may recall this very poignant comment he made so many years ago. He said: “Our lives end the day that we become silent about things that matter.”
So, in ending, you go out and tell folks when you get a chance. And on a lighter note please remember to say a Hail Mary for Thomas Edison. Despite my trashing of him, we owe the man a great deal and I suspect his earlier statement for scientific proof has now become eternally clear to him.
The Sacrifice of Christ
by Deacon Don Griffith
This day is the octave of Easter. From Easter Sunday, all through the week and including today, the Church has prayed that it is truly right at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but on this day above all to laud you yet more gloriously when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. For he is the true Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world. Each day within this octave the Church celebrates as though it is Easter Sunday, so glorious is the day of Resurrection, that that day is prolonged. At times in Sacred Scripture we hear the phrase the last and greatest day of the feast. So we find ourselves here today on this the last and greatest day of the feast. It is the greatest day not so much because it is the last day, but because we have been living the Paschal Mystery, and by living this mystery the Church invites us to an ever greater awareness of the import of this day in our life and to help us in this recognition this Sunday is called Divine Mercy Sunday.
(CCC1367) The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory- it atones for sins. This is the first and most important way in which we participate in the Mass- to offer this sacrifice with the priest, to join ourselves to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, and to say in a way Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Part of mercy-the effect of mercy- is to dispel, to remove whatever may be causing another person’s misery. When we consider that sin constitutes our misery (Dives in Misericordia 4.), we can begin to come to an ever deepening awareness of what God the father of mercies has done for us through his Son. Also, it is not a coincidence that the gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday is the institution of the sacrament of Penance. In the words of the Council of Trent But because God, rich in mercy, knows our frame, (g) He hath bestowed a remedy of life even on those who may, after baptism, have delivered themselves up to the servitude of sin and the power of the devil, –the sacrament to wit of Penance, by which the benefit of the death of Christ is applied to those who have fallen after baptism. In the encyclical Rich in Mercy, which I encourage you to prayerfully read, Pope St. John Paul II in expounding on mercy in the Old Testament says that mercy does not pertain only to the notion of God, but it is something that characterizes the life of the whole people of Israel and each of its sons and daughters: mercy is the content of intimacy with their Lord, the content of their dialogue with Him. Is it not also the same for us? Having this dialog of mercy with our Lord in prayer and in the sacraments do we not then desire to act mercifully towards those who are lonely, or hungry, or whose families are separated? The content of their prayer has also been mercy. A prayer that sounds like Lord have mercy. I don’t know what I am going to do in this situation, but I need help. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but Jesus, I trust in you. And when they say Amen and open their eyes, perhaps it is one of us that our Lord has sent to them. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
The Essence of the Divine Mercy Devotion
by Deacon Mike Jacobs
The message of the Divine Mercy is a call and challenge:
Trust in God’s Mercy and Be Merciful.
The Message of Divine Mercy is that God is merciful. He is love itself poured out for us, and He wants no one to escape that merciful love. The message is that God wants us to turn to Him with trust and repentance while it is still a time of mercy, before He comes as the just Judge. This turning with trust to Him who is Mercy itself is the only source of peace for mankind. Turning to and imploring God’s mercy is the answer to the troubled world. There is no escaping that answer.
Divine Mercy is God’s love poured out on the undeserving in creating us, redeeming us and sanctifying us. It is “Loves second name” (Rich in Mercy, John Paul II). Mercy has been described as love of the unlovable and forgiveness of the unforgivable. It is love in action.
The Response of Trust and Conversion
What God most wants of us is to turn to Him with trust. And the first act of trust is to receive His mercy. To trust God is to rely on Him who is Mercy itself. The Lord wants us to live with trust in Him in all circumstances. We trust Him because He is God, and He loves us and cares for us. His mercy is always available to us, no matter what we have done or what state we are in, even if our sins are as black as night and we are filled with
fears and anxieties.
“The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 723)
But there is more we can do. As Catholics, as Christians, we can go to the Sacrament of
Reconciliation and be reconciled to God and to man. The Lord wants us to live reconciled with Him and one another.
The Response of Mercy Toward Others
Not only are we to receive His mercy, but we are to use it, being merciful to others by our actions, by our words, and by our prayers; in other words by practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy are feeding the
hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the travelers, comforting the prisoners, visiting the sick, and burying the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy include teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, correcting sinners, counseling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving wrongs willingly.
The message of mercy is the content and the challenge of Sacred Scripture. In the Hebrew Bible we see a God of mercy who calls His people to be merciful. In the New Testament Jesus exhorts us:
“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”(Lk 6:36).
He sets the highest goal for us and expects us to obtain it by His merciful love:
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).
When He comes again, He will judge us on our mercy toward one another:
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
Mercy — The Message and Response Through the Ages
The message and response of mercy is not something new. In the past, God spoke a message of mercy through the patriarchs and prophets — through Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah and many others. In the last days God has spoken to us by His Son, Jesus Christ, who is Mercy personified and incarnated. God continues to speak a word of mercy even to our generation, through the Church and its shepherds, and through holy men and women —mystics — whom God has chosen as His vessels. In our century He revealed Himself to Saint Faustina, a simple and holy nun in Poland during the 1930s. He called her to be His secretary and His apostle of mercy. He spoke to her of His mercy and the way He wants us to respond to it.
It’s the Teaching of St. John Paul II
The message of The Divine Mercy — Jesus Himself — is at the heart of the gospel. The message of mercy presents the truth and the call of the gospel to our present age. This message of mercy is proclaimed by St John Paul II, in his encyclical Rich in Mercy, as the message for our age. His encyclical is a strong summons for us to implore mercy for ourselves and for the whole world — NOW!
In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, in the spirit of His messianic mission, which endures in the works of mankind, we lift up our voice and plead: that the love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history and that, through the work of The Son and The Holy Spirit, that love may be shown to be present in our modern world and be shown to be more powerful than evil: more powerful than sin and death (Rich in Mercy, 15).
Now is the Time for Mercy
Our Lord’s revelations to Saint Faustina speak of now as the time of mercy. There is a special urgency in this message. Repeatedly, our Lord stressed that now is the day of mercy before the coming of the Day of Judgment. Now is the time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. “Write this,” He said to her:
“Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy… I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners). But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation” (Diary, 83, 1160)
To this powerful message from the Lord, Saint Faustina adds her own exhortation. “O human souls,” she asks, “where are you going to hide on the day of God’s anger? Take refuge now in the fount of God’s Mercy” (Diary, 848) Of the 7.1 billion people in the world, 16 million are Jewish, 1.6 billon are Muslim, and 2.2 billion are Christian, of which 1.2 billion are Catholics. This leaves some 3.1 billion who do not even know that there is a Merciful God, and many more who are refusing to trust in His mercy. In the face of this situation, Our Lord’s words to us through Saint Faustina are unmistakably clear:
“Speak to the world about My mercy: let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times, after it will come the
day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy, let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed
forth for them” (Diary, 848).
So, the challenge awaits us now to speak out and tell the world of this infinitely merciful God who is waiting for us to turn to Him with trust and become merciful to others as He is merciful to us. God’s mercy as presented to us through Saint Faustina:
“God’s floodgates have been opened for us Let us want to take advantage of them before the day of God’s justice arrives… O what a great multitude
of souls I see! They worshiped The Divine Mercy and will be singing the hymn of praise for all eternity” (Diary, 1159, 848).
Devotion to the Divine Mercy
Our Lord not only taught Saint Faustina the fundamentals of trust, and of mercy to others, but He also revealed special ways to live out the response to His mercy. These we call the devotion to The Divine Mercy. The word “devotion” means fulfilling our vows. It is a commitment of our lives to the Lord who is Mercy itself. By giving our lives to The Divine Mercy — Jesus Christ Himself — we become instruments of His mercy to others, and so we can live out the command of the Lord:
“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).
Through Saint Faustina, Our Lord gave us special means of drawing on His mercy: an Image of The Divine Mercy, a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Feast of Mercy, a novena, and prayer at the three o’clock hour — the hour of His death. These special means are in addition to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, which have been given to the Church.
Let us take 10 minutes to reflect on Gods greatest gift to us His Divine Mercy.