Mission Blog: Easter Orchid Series

“Peace be with you…  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God.”  John 21: 26, 28[

Naples, The Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday.  Growing up in Newark at St. Leo’s Grammar School, St. Thomas had a bad rap with the nuns.  “Don’t be a doubting Thomas, Stephen!  You’re a Catholic!  Get some faith!”  So, rather than standout like a loser, or get rapped on the knuckles by Sister Wanda, I got a grip on myself.  I wasn’t going to end up a “Doubting Thomas.”  I became an altar boy, as expected.

Of course, all of us are Doubting Thomases, as I figured out in a very real way in college and later, as a young man, slowly drifting away from the faith.  It all seems so crazy.  So intangible. So far away.  So UNBELIEVABLE.  

It is.  That’s why it’s called “faith.”

Later in my journey, I gradually came back to the Lord through a series of very intense personal experiences of his love.  Most of these experiences seemed to involve some great act of mercy on his part.  Of his infinite love for me.  His boundless mercy.  It is in that experience of the Lord– a spiritual experience or communion, perhaps, but a far more “real” one than a passing evening of entertainment out in the secular world– that I came home. 

I was lost, and he found me.

He let me experience his peace.  His grace.  His love.

Meditating this morning on John’s colorful account of the doubting Thomas, I found myself tossing it back and forth with Mark’s simpler account which I was also working through.  I was a day overdue with my Mark reflection, so the topic for my Sunday morning bike ride today was both gospels at once.  As usual, the Lord made lemonade out of this spiritual lemon I had set myself upon. 

It finally occurred to me that the message John was broadcasting here was not what an unbeliever Thomas was, but rather what an unbeliever all of the apostles were, what unbelievers all of us often are.   All of the apostles, all of us, at first couldn’t believe that Jesus had actually risen, conquered death for ever, fulfilled the promised redemption, and instituted a New Covenant by which we all would rise with Him.  Until they experienced Him.  In the flesh, yes.  In the Eucharist, yes.  But mostly in his boundless mercy.

That’s when Mary of Magdala is transformed from weeping basket case to first of the proclaimers of his resurrection.  That’s when Cleopas is converted from discouraged disciple to excited missionary, running five miles back to the apostles in Jerusalem from Emmaus.  That’s when Peter is converted from discouraged sinner to forceful leader of the new Church on the misty shores of Lake Galilee.  And that’s when Thomas is turned.  And that’s when each of us is turned.  

When we experience his boundless mercy.

“Peace be with you.”

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday.

A missionary

April 19, 2020