Today is the second Sunday of Easter, which is also recognized by the Church as Divine Mercy Sunday (click here for more on this beautiful celebration). Our first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16 (the Apostles are doing many great works), the responsory is Psalm 118 (Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love is everlasting), the second reading is Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 (John seeing the risen Jesus in Heaven), and the Gospel is John 20:19-31 (the famous “doubting Thomas” story).
You can find the full text of the readings from the USCCB website by clicking here.
One of the difficulties the students I work with have most often with Catholic Christianity is their feeling that they cannot see God. They tell me how much easier it would be to believe in God or to want to follow Him if they could just see Him, or hear Him, or know for certain He was there. While I see their point – there are moments when I don’t always understand why God is working the way He is, and a face to face conversation would make things easier – I also understand why God chooses not to show Himself.
It’s a simple answer, really, only one word long: love. God chooses not to show up in the visible ways we’d like him to because He loves us. When Jesus tells Thomas that those who don’t see and believe are “blessed,” it’s because they (each of us) have been given the opportunity to love. We are not going to get the opportunity to walk with Jesus for three years, to serve as an Apostle, or to witness the resurrection. But, what we do get is the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in us (we’ll celebrate that in about six weeks) and, in turn, the opportunity to seek out God. You see, it’s not impossible to see God – He’s just hiding. He wants us to look for Him, because it’s in the experience of the looking (in prayer) that we will grow to love Him, as we discover Him gradually, unfolding layer upon layer of the mystery that He is. If He walked into the room you are sitting in right now, reading this quick reflection – you’d have no choice to believe: knowing that Jesus exists would simply be a fact of your life. And while that might make believing in Him easier, it’s going to force everything that Jesus is on you in one moment… and nothing about love is forceful since forced acts of love are among the most heinous of crimes.
The difference for Thomas was that he had already had three years to peel back many of the layers of Jesus’ identity, so to see Him in one shot didn’t take away His freedom. But we who are offered an opportunity to live in relationship with Jesus, discovering day by day the great mystery that is Him… this is certainly difficult, as my students recognize, but it’s also blessed: it’s an opportunity to fall in love. Take another step forward with that at Mass this Sunday.