I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: Forgiveness is the vital step to faith. Examining the evidence and asking God's grace, we want to be like Thomas: to say to Jesus, "My Lord and my God."
On Easter Sunday I addressed a word to those who doubt Jesus' resurrection. I understand the doubt. We are, after all, making a huge claim. It's not just about the truth of an historical event - that a man the Romans cruelly put to death rose bodily from the grave. In reality we are saying much more. Jesus' resurrection is not only true, it is the truth about everything. Because of the resurrection Jesus is the center of human history, the center of the universe and, whether we know it or not, the resurrection means that Jesus is the central person in your life and mine.
If you doubt Jesus' resurrection, you do have good company. We hear today that the Apostle Thomas doubted. He wanted to see the evidence. That's a good, scientific mindset. We should want to examine the evidence. I mentioned last Sunday that the Church sets aside 50 days to explore the evidence. From Easter until Pentecost, May 31, we hear biblical readings about different aspects of Jesus' resurrection. And I mentioned a helpful book: The Case for Jesus by Dr. Brant Pitre - the biblical and historical evidence for Christ.
I am personally convinced there is a strong case for Christ. Thomas of course received powerful proof - an appearance of Jesus and the offer to touch the wounds. Even so, it did require an act of faith.
That's my main point today: We need evidence, but we need something more - God's grace, the Divine Mercy. Let me explain.
As we see in today's Gospel the prerequisite for faith is forgiveness. That's why the first thing Jesus says to the disciples is "Peace be with you." Then he breathes the Holy Spirit on them and says, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..." This refers to the power Jesus gave the Apostles and their successors to absolve sins in his name.
It also indicates our need for forgiveness. We see this during our pandemic. I'll speak from the point of view of those ordered to shelter in place. For some it was an opportunity to deepen family bonds, for others not so much. Some used this time for intellectual and spiritual growth. At the same time liquor and marijuana have had huge sales. And traffic for porn sites has soared.
I'll let each person examine his conscience on how he is using his time. But there's one area we all need to look at: what we see in Thomas - his reaction of anger. Instead of saying, "wow, tell me more", he says "Unless I see...I will not believe." All of us can understand his resentment when the others told about Jesus' appearance and he was left out.
Now, anger is a natural emotion and it has a good purpose: to motivate us to do something about an injustice. That's good, but anger can quickly become misdirected. St. Paul says, "Don't let the sun go down and your anger." (Eph. 4:26)
Anger can fester and destroy a person. Anger often harms the people closest to us. I've heard people express anger at Trump, the news media or even the bishops. I've experienced some of that anger myself. But what do we do about that anger? That's the question. Books on anger management could fill a small library. I'll offer a small anecdote
I remember once expressing frustration to Archbishop Brunett (may he rest in peace). Rather than argue with me, the archbishop said, "Phil, you have to focus on what's right in front of you." You know, I can't solve the problems of the world and the church. I can, however, make a difference that will matter to someone. When you think about it, the whole purpose of politics is to make possible small acts - like being a parent or a pastor. St. Paul says, "pray for...all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." The emperors, such as Nero, had enormous power. To this day you can read books about the emperors. Still it's St. Paul who tells us the important things going in the Empire - things that really last.
You and I can become angry because others treat us as insignificant, "non-essential". You know what I mean: liquor stores and marijuana shops are essential but churches non-essential. Well, the Roman Empire ignored or oppressed Christians. Turned out Christians held the key to the future.
What I'm saying is use your anger, but then let it go. You have important, essential things to do. Ask God forgiveness for your failures and make a new beginning. Then forgive the failures of others. Today we celebrate Divine Mercy - a perfect moment to open yourself to mercy and to show mercy to others. Forgiveness is the vital step to faith. First, examine the evidence. We'll see impressive evidence next Sunday. After investigating the best you can, then ask for God's grace - his divine mercy. In the end we want to be like Thomas: to say to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." And kneeling before the Eucharist, say "my Lord and my God." Amen.
Audio Homilies for Mercy Sunday:
Divine Mercy Sunday homilies:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru