Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday – 11 April 2021
Lectionary Readings: Acts 4:32-35; Ps 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31
Theme: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The traditional nickname for this Sunday is ‘ Doubting Thomas Sunday’. It seems a bit harsh that Thomas should be singled out in this way. The reading of the reactions of other followers of Jesus to the news of the Resurrection, as described in the other three gospels, suggests that they also found it difficult to believe. In Luke 24:36-42, Jesus behaves towards the others much as he does towards Thomas. He is very patient with their doubts. To prove that he is not a ghost, he says “Touch me and see.” He asks if they have any food and when given a piece of broiled fish, he eats it up as they watch. And, after all, why shouldn’t they doubt? Years ago, I heard, and have never forgotten, a talk by the Canadian author, Rudy Wiebe, broadcasted on CBC radio. He was a guest on a program of Easter music and the host asked him why it was that Easter had been so overshadowed by Christmas in popular culture. After all, Easter is the most important Christian festival. Wiebe replied that Christmas is a lot of fun. It’s about a baby. We go to parties and give each other presents and enjoy lots of food and drink. What’s not to like about Christmas? Easter, on the other hand, he said, and these are his words as I remember them: “Easter is hard. It seemed to me that as a child I was forever being taken to funerals—and I never saw anybody get out of the grave. Easter is hard.”
Thomas, as seen elsewhere in this Gospel, is a brave and honest man. He is willing to die with Jesus. (Jn11:16) He does not mind asking the question that everyone wants to ask but does not, for fear of looking stupid. (Jn 14:5) And he is honest enough to say he will not take anyone else’s word for it that Jesus had risen for the dead. He must see for himself. When he does, Raymond Brown writes (p.360):
“…Thomas is not said to have touched Jesus. To have done so would probably have signified that Thomas’ disbelief remained. Rather, his willingness to believe without touching Jesus is genuine faith, with the ironical result that the one who embodied disbelief now utters the highest Christological confession in the Gospels, ‘My Lord and My God’—an inclusion with the Prologue’s ‘The Word was God.’ In response, Jesus blesses all future generations who will believe in him without having seen.”
Thomas did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead because other people told him so. He wanted to see and know for himself. We can apply this to our own lives as Christians. We are taught as children that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. We are accustomed to reciting belief in the Resurrection as part of the Creed. But at some stage, we must, like Thomas, ‘see’ and believe for ourselves that Jesus did ‘get out of the grave’.
For Reflection and Discussion: Read and reflect on what the Canadian singer and songwriter Steve Bell has to say about ‘Doubting Thomas’ https://stevebell.com/doubting-thomas/
Bibliography: Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: 1997).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2010