St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have travelled far and wide to spread the Gospel. According to Christian tradition, around the year 50 A.D., he left Palestine and journeyed east – out of the familiar confines of the Roman Empire even – and entered India. There, he learned the language and preached Jesus Christ to them and won many new Christians. He travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent and reached the southern tip. Some sources have claimed that he even travelled with merchants as far as Indonesia. There is even an old Peruvian legend that says the Apostle made it across the Pacific Ocean to South America!
St. Thomas – one of the Twelve – Apostle, evangelized, brave witness to Jesus Christ.
And we forever call him “Doubting Thomas!”
How would you like to be labeled for any one particular moment or episode in your life? Do you ever lie awake in bed at night thinking about past blunders, mistakes, or failures? What if that was all anyone ever knew of you? How do you come back from that? Believe me, I have my share of “why-the-heck-did-I-do-that?” moments, and I certainly would like to erase them from the history of the universe.
However, that is often how we see historical figures, isn’t it? If we do not have a living relationship with someone, it is easy to fall into the trap of labeling someone and leaving it at that. It’s only when we delve deeper that we get a fuller picture of who someone is.
Friends, none of us is as good as our best; nor are we as bad as our worst. And no one knows this better than Jesus! It is He who comes to us – even in our pain, sadness, and shame – and he opens His heart to us again and again. That is the key to understanding the Divine Mercy of God. No one is beyond God’s ability to reach, to convert, to love, and to save – no one.
Thomas did what you and I might do: In the face of extraordinary claims, don’t we doubt? Don’t we meet it with skepticism? Don’t we demand proof? Thomas probably had other faults as well – like you and I. His inquisitive nature led him to ask Jesus “We don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And that earned the beautiful teaching of Christ, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
However, his same inquisitive nature wins him the title of “Doubter.”
You and I have had our moments, too. Based on those moments, what would our labels be? Druggie? Cheater? Liar? Quitter? What are the labels that we throw at others based on our limited encounters with them? Please, don’t drive with me at rush hour!
However, God knows all these moments – and more. He knows how bad I have been; He knows how often I have failed and how phony I can be; He knows all my sins, big and small. Jesus knew this about all His friends in that Upper Room as well. He knew that Peter betrayed Him; He knew others were despairing; He knew they all abandoned Him when things got hard.
He knew all this as He came through that locked door.
And His first words to those same people who had let Him down in so many ways? “Peace be with you!”
This, brothers and sisters, is the Divine Mercy in action. This is the Easter gift that Jesus gives to His Church: the gift of His peace. A peace that says “I forgive you;” a peace that says “You are my beloved friends – no matter what.”
Can we accept this peace too? We, who have so many labels, prejudices, and opinions of ourselves and others? The Risen Lord also comes to us today and offers that same peace and reconciliation. Thomas finally recognizes Him and acclaims Him to be “Lord and … God. And that’s all that really matter, isn’t it? From there, his past mistakes mean nothing to the Lord, and Thomas is now ready to take on the world as a sharer of Christ’s message of salvation.
The Divine Mercy of God means that no one is simply defined by their mistakes. Instead, we are looked upon by God as someone who has been redeemed by Christ and who now has an eternal destiny tied to Him. The joy of Easter remains in the fact that all of us have been united to Jesus in our Baptism, and we are joined to that community of believers that is marked by our shared salvation. Like those first Apostles and disciples, we ought to be “of one heart and mind” – not concerned with others’ mistakes or failures, but only focused together on sharing the saving love of Christ with the world.
When we allow God’s love and mercy to enfold us, we are built into the Missionary Disciples that our Baptism demands us to be. Like Thomas, then, you and I are now equipped by Jesus to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth – wherever the Spirit may lead us.