For those of you that know me, I do like to play a little golf. I was drawn to the game because I think it’s simply miraculous that someone can hit a little ball into a hole that is 400+ yards away in 4 swings or less (on occasion anyway). When I first took up the game a few years ago, I noticed something I thought was amazing. All over the course, I would hear golfers shouting out to Jesus and God. “What a religious group of people golfers are!” I said to myself. When I returned to the clubhouse I remarked to the attendant how impressed I was with the all the “prayer” going on. Imagine my disappointment as the attendant explained to me that it wasn’t exactly prayer happening out on the course. It goes to show that things may not always be what they seem.
It can be said of today’s Gospel that things may not be what they seem. St. Thomas or “Doubting Thomas” can be very misunderstood. He may seem to us that he did not want to believe unless he definitively saw Jesus, that he was being relentlessly stubborn. Let’s, however, take a look at St. Thomas in a different way. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow morning and the first person you see tells you that the price of gas just went down to 10 cents a gallon. What would your reaction be? I know what mine would be, “You’ve got to be kidding! That’s unbelievable!” I’m guessing your reaction would be very similar. That’s where St. Thomas was. He loved Jesus so much that the news of the resurrection was so wonderful that it was too much for him to handle. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to believe that Jesus had risen, it was more that the news was just too good to be true. And that is seen in St. Thomas’ response once Jesus shows St. Thomas his wounds. “My Lord and My God!”, St. Thomas exclaims. What a beautiful response! In that response, St. Thomas gives us an example of complete surrender and total faith in Jesus as the true Son of God and the Way to eternal life. Imagine how Thomas felt from that point. The One he loved so much, who he saw die on a cross, was alive and with him again! He must’ve been overjoyed.
St. Thomas leads us to the true Joy of Easter. Rejoicing at the risen Lord. The good news, as St. Thomas found out wasn’t too good to be true, was Jesus risen from the dead. This is a fact! This fact is what our faith is based on. Jesus had indeed conquered all! This isn’t just good news, this is great news. This isn’t just great news, it’s wonderful news! This isn’t just wonderful news, it is the best news of all! We live! We win! What could be better than that? 10 cents a gallon for gas? Not even close!
But do we really embrace the good news? Are we living a life that shows our faith? Are we living in the ways of our future life in heaven?
This is the challenge of the New Evangelization. Vatican II was 50 years ago. Vatican II opened the doors of the Church not so much for people to come in, but for the Church to go to others. As Christians, as Catholics, to evangelize properly we need to be able to draw other to Jesus. The only way we can draw them is to show them the true love, joy, and happiness of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, this Church was filled to (or beyond) capacity. The ability to fill our Churches every week exists, but God is relying on us to show his true love to others. And it starts with really believing the “good” news and expressing it from the inside out. In the Holy Chrism Mass a week ago this past Thursday, our most wonderful Bishop, David Zubik, told a story in his homily that I’m going to borrow today, because it’s right to this point. When he was a young seminarian, Bishop Zubik once had the opportunity of receiving advice from John Cardinal Wright (then Bishop of Pittsburgh in the late 60s). Now Bishop Zubik, our young seminarian, was expecting to hear something very profound such as “tend the flock” or “Be a man of prayer” or something deeply theological. However, Bishop Wright simply looked at him and said, “David, I have one word for you…smile”.
Smiling of course, in this world can be a challenge. This may come as a shock to you, but we are all different. And we are all human, we all have imperfections. What saddens me, and I believe Our Lord too, is that we don’t overcome our differences and live in His love. I’m not a big Facebook user (this is probably why), and on the rare occasion I do log in, invariably, I’ll see someone posting something derogatory about some other person or group. No doubt I could open the floor right now and engage debate about being a Republican or Democrat. But, Jesus asks us to overcome our differences and live as one. WE are the Church, WE are the Body of the resurrected Jesus. WE need to seek the one truth of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ in order to become that one body.
I want to share a little segment of the “Catholicism” series that some here at our parish have been studying over the last 10 weeks or so. Fr. Robert Barron, the series host, in one part discusses what happens to us after our death. Fr. Barron discusses heaven “Eye has not seen, Ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Conversely, Fr. Barron also discusses Hell. Fr. Barron uses the vision of a big party, to which we’ve been invited, but instead of joining the party, we stubbornly sit in a corner and refuse to have any fun. Realistically, we put ourselves in hell. We put ourselves in hell by not giving of ourselves to work to overcome our differences. We judge ourselves by rejecting God’s love and mercy.
Speaking of mercy, today is Divine Mercy Sunday. The revelations to St. Faustina back in the 1930s, brought to light something that was really already going on in the Church. St. Augustine (around 1500 years earlier) called the entire Octave of Easter “the days of mercy and pardon” and the 2nd Sunday of Easter as “the compendium of the days of mercy.” God’s love and mercy are really what Easter is all about. Jesus took on our sins in the greatest act of love and mercy.
Through Divine Mercy we receive the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of God’s Love as we saw in the first part of our Gospel today, and then we can experience the truth and victory we hear of in the First Letter of John. It is through Divine Mercy that Jesus gives us the sacraments of reconciliation and even more importantly the Eucharist where we can directly encounter the resurrected Jesus.
In our meeting the resurrected Jesus, if nothing else we know we can conquer our sins and we can conquer our death through the risen Lord. This is the good or again I’ll say best news of all that should give us every reason to rejoice and be glad and want to share that gladness with others. You can start sharing right now with a smile.