Neither Gullible nor Rigid

(Homily Second Sunday Easter: )

If I had to chose a patron saint for these final months before the year 2000 it would be St. Thomas. Or as he is sometimes called Doubting Thomas. We live in tense days when people are predicting terrible disasters. For months the media have been churning out articles and reports about Y2K: how at midnite this year computers could cause chaos in our banks, hospitals, airlines, etc. None of the articles shed much light, but they do leave the reader with a vague sense of possible doom.

That feeling of imminent disaster underlies other news stories like the ones about global warming and overpopulation. I admit that when I hear dire predictions from those considered to be experts, I do shudder a bit inside. At the same time I remind myself that other predictions have been made. During the oil crisis in the early 70's we were told that in about twenty or thirty years all the world's petroleum resources would be depleted. I somewhat wistfully imagined a world without automobiles, but anyone who drives I-5 knows that has certainly not happened. Nor have predictions about worldwide famines come true. For sure there have been terrible local famines but they were caused by civil wars, not an overall lack of food in the world. Surplus, even glut, is more the problem.

I mention these failed predictions not to say we should ignore what experts tell us. On the contrary let's attend seriously to them, but we also need to have a bit of the Doubting Thomas inside us. The same applies to spiritual predictions. I remember when I was kid listening on the radio to someone called Armstrong who foresaw that a United Europe (under the pope!) would fulfill the prophecies of Revelation and precede the End of the 1975! Another seer, Edgar Cayce, predicted great worldwide catastrophes in the 90's. You could certainly point to terrible happenings in this decade (genocide, ethnic cleansing, widespread abortion, etc.) but whether they are greater than other decades, especially the 40's, would be subject to debate.

The failure of prophets like Armstrong and Cayce should make us Doubting Thomases when confronted with new ones today--even those in our own Catholic Church. Recently several different people have asked me about the Three Days of Darkness that will proceed the end of the world. It is said that all sources of light will fail and the world will be submerged in a total darkness. The only light will come from blessed candles. This description brought to mind my days in Peru. In the small town where I spent nearly seven years, blackouts were common. Without warning the town would be plunged into total darkness. Inevitably I was unprepared and found myself walking slowly with my hands in front of me, groping for a candle and matches. Perhaps because of that memory I went ahead and blessed the candles of those who feared the Three Days of Darkness. But I must admit that within me is very much the Doubting Thomas.

The question naturally arises: At what point should one stop being the skeptic, the doubter? It is easy for a skeptic to turn into the proverbial ostrich with head buried in the sand. What begins as a legitimate doubt can become defensive denial. That is the state of many people today--they have passed beyond doubt to outright denial.

Notice that Thomas did not do that. He did not close his mind. Eight days later he was confronted with the evidence. It is reassuring that there was such a man as Thomas in the number of the apostles--neither gullible nor rigid.

But what Thomas received was so much greater than the confirmation of a hypothesis. For sure he experienced the satisfaction of his human reason which is always trying to separate truth from falsehood. But the human longing is much greater than that. What Thomas received is what many have begun to focus on this Second Sunday of Easter. Today is sometimes called Divine Mercy Sunday. That is really what Thomas was seeking even tho he perhaps would not have used that exact phrase.

The deepest longing of each one of us is for the Divine Mercy. This is because of the huge gap between creature and Creator. The distance between God and any human being is greater than the distance between one of us and an amoeba. It is only the Divine Mercy which bridges that immeasurable gulf. And the distance is not just between Creator and creature, but between the All Holy God and the sinner.

In spite of our sins, we must never despair of the Divine Mercy. Some people think that they have done something so bad--perhaps abortion or child abuse--that they no longer qualify. That is not true. On the other hand there are some who think they have no need for Mercy. I've met people who tell me they have not gone to confession for years--but that they really don't have any sins. What I will say is, "That's great to hear, but would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions." Don't worry, I don't have any great psychoanalytical ability. It is usually enough to just review the Ten Commandments. Have you stolen anything? Dishonored your parents? Lied? Sex outside of marriage? Missed Sunday Mass? Cursed? If any of us just reflected on our last twenty-fours hours, we would readily admit that we need the Divine Mercy.

I invite you to approach Jesus this Sunday with a Thomas hand. He will give you the answers to your sincere doubts. But much more, he will give you Divine Mercy.


Evidence for Historical Resurrection

From Archives:

2014 Homily: Journey to Hope Week 2
2013: Overcoming Fear - A Titanic Hero
2012: Divine Mercy in a Time of Crisis
2011: His Mercy Endures
2010: Believing Is Seeing
2009: The Eighth Day
2008: Reconciliation
2007: A Drop in the Ocean
2006: Mercy in Action
2005: The Grandeur of God
2004: God Loves Honest Skeptics
2003: The Truth Is Out There
2002: Divine Mercy
2001: Doubting The Doubts
2000: A Requisite for Faith
1999: Neither Gullible nor Rigid
1998: Be Not Afraid!
1997: Room for Doubt

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