Sunday, 11 April, 2021, Divine Mercy Sunday.
Thomas always seems to get a bad rap! He wants to check out what the other disciples have experienced is true. He asks good questions about how we experience life when he says if I don’t see it for myself, I cannot believe it is true. For him, faith is a personal journey even when he is encouraged by others. I feel that this is true for all of us and especially in our present age. While others can teach us about Jesus, it is only through personal experience that we learn to relate to Jesus. Even the best teacher or homilist can only lead us towards that experience, they cannot undertake the journey on our behalf. In fact, this is where we are called to begin our Easter journey. We are called to notice what happens in everyday life. To discover what leads us to an experience of life and not death. Where we find our hearts burning within us as we listen to scripture, pray and gather with others.
Yet in the reality of daily life, we are called to encounter the living wounds of Christ. Often around times of suffering and death, we experience different emotions of trauma and grief. This is perfectly natural and each of us with the support of others undertakes this part of the journey in life. What catches us by surprise is that the experience of passing through trauma and grief empowers us to encounter others in ways that bring hope and life. Much in the same way as Thomas meeting the Risen Christ, we put our hands in their side. Not to cause more grief and suffering but to encounter one heart beating in rhythm with our own.
In fact, there is often a tentativeness in each of us in standing with a community or an individual who has gone through an experience of deep grief. Often, we can be with them on Good Friday, but it is hard to stay with the silence of Holy Saturday which marks the transition to Easter Sunday. Often it is this waiting that frustrates and worries us. There is a tendency which wishes to rush a person through their experience of suffering and death because it disturbs us with our own mortality. Yet if we can wait with the person and their questions like Thomas, it opens up space within us to touch the heart of another. Often this is done with hesitation when we ask for one thing but do not expect the response to be invited in. This is a place of profound trust and vulnerability. It is in fact what Jesus invites Thomas to do. To make the first tentative steps to sense his heart beating in time with our own. Easter is a time when we are called to trust and have faith that Jesus will surprise us often in our everyday encounters. In many ways, he uses the same words: “Do not be afraid, put your hand into my side”. Trust that even in our deepest questions and our darkest night, Christ’s light will shine.
Fr. John Armstrong