To wrestle with our faith, to have doubts, is normal; it is part of the journey and it is nothing for which we should be ashamed. To be a person of faith means that we recognize and consequently rely with gratitude upon the mercy of God and the many gifts we have been given, without which we could not do very much at all. Our hard work is necessary, but without the grace of God, we would progress very little, if at all, in our life of faith. As humans we do want to understand, but many things are far beyond us. Therefore, like Thomas we will often wrestle deeply with a situation involving faith or morals, or we will falter because of the knowledge that evil is prevalent in our world and we feel powerless before it. I think that for Thomas, it was less an issue of belief than it was one of comprehension. The evidence for this is that once he did see, he was willing to live in the ‘not understanding how it was possible’ that Jesus was in fact standing before him, resurrected from the dead. He did not say, “How is it that you are here, Jesus?” or “Explain how this happened.” Instead he landed on his knees and exclaimed the truth of his faith: “My Lord and my God!” He believed the unbelievable. And in so doing he learned that indeed, as Jesus said, “Blessed are those [of us] who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29) Yes, we are truly blessed with the gifts of faith, hope, and love.
This is why the Paschal mysteries are so important: we acknowledge that we are awaiting the Second Coming of Christ and that until then we are at war with evil, but we have His grace to help us to persevere. It does not mean that there will be no suffering; on the contrary, there will be much. But we know that the ultimate victory will be ours, if not here, in Heaven. Therefore we are not to be fearful, and if we wrestle with doubt because of what we cannot understand perhaps we can ask St. Thomas to intercede for us that we may be able to trust that though we cannot see, God’s grace is indeed present. The apostles saw Jesus with their own eyes and they were not preserved from pain and suffering. But they had the joy of knowing their Lord was with them and that all of their efforts at sharing the gospel, and offering mercy and love, did make a difference. They could not have known when they died that there would be billions of Christians who would follow in their footsteps throughout history, also trying to build the Kingdom through mercy and love. Their efforts did indeed make a difference or you and I would not be here at this very moment sharing the faith.
Through our celebration of Divine Mercy we can learn from St. Thomas, the one who struggled with not seeing and who teaches us that we do not have to understand in order to believe and accept. We can learn from St. John Paul II that in God is mercy which is ‘the second name of love.’ * We can learn from St. Faustina that in word, deed, and prayer we can be people of mercy, sharing the divine love even in our own faltering efforts. And finally we can trust that the mercy of God is always available in abundance to us and to the world which is in real need. Mercy does not ensure that we will have a trouble-free life, not in the least, but it does ensure that we will be bathed in the presence of Jesus, who is always with us, indeed until the end of time. We need not be afraid. We have the mercy of God to support us and to share. Let us say with St. Thomas: My Lord and My God!
©Michele L. Catanese
*In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, section 7, St. John Paul II wrote: “... mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed.”
Both the above quote from St. John Paul and the prayer of St. Faustina were found in Crossing the Threshold of Mercy: A Spiritual Guide for the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, ed. By Mark-David Janus, CSP, PhD
The first and fourth images in this entry are icons by Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is called The Risen Lord Appears to St. Thomas and can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-risen-lord-appears-to-st-thomas-257-william-hart-mcnichols.html. The latter icon is called St. Faustina Kowalska Apostle of Divine Mercy. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-faustina-kowalska-apostle-of-divine-mercy-094-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
After the icon of St. Thomas is an inset of the Risen Christ from a painting by Fra Angelico. I really liked the tenderness and mercy which are seen in Jesus' eyes and overall expression.
The third and fifth images are my photos. The seascape was take in Jacksonville, Florida. I chose it because it is a sunrise through many clouds, so you cannot truly tell it is a sunrise. This is symbolic of the "lesson" of St. Thomas: sometimes you cannot see something that is truly there. We have to trust that the sunrise is taking place in this photo, just as we have to trust that God is present when things seem to be indicating the opposite.
The last photo was taken in Nova Scotia, Canada. I chose it because it reminded me of the waters of Baptism in which we are washed and which are a source of rich life-giving grace.