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3/30/2016 10:55:00 AM
Help each other believe

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


Second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Divine Mercy
Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31

The rituals that surround death are familiar to the members of my family. I grew up thinking that everyone would grieve in the same way my family grieved. They would gather in the funeral home and tell stories about the person they loved. They would remember. They would laugh and they would cry. This is what we did for three days when my Dad died.

In short, we were surrounded by people trying to take the place where a big man once stood.  

The disciples’ story is similar to ours except that they locked the door.  Scripture tells us that the disciples locked the doors because they feared the Jews.

Surely that was true but I have always believed that they gathered with each other for another reason. They needed the comfort that being with others could bring.

Like generations before and after them, they told stories and they laughed and cried while they tried to take the place where the one they loved once stood. How we grieve varies little.

The disciples discovered that no one could really take the place of Jesus and we discovered that no one could take my father’s place.

But there is more to the story. In the end, this is a faith story. The appearance of Jesus changed everything for the disciples and the Mass of the Resurrection changed everything for my family. Initially, the story seems to be about Thomas who was not there when Jesus appeared. There are some who call him “Doubting Thomas” as if his lack of faith was a lack of faith in Jesus. I wonder. Did Thomas lack faith in Jesus or in the other disciples? One wonders why Thomas was not with the disciples.

Some speculate that his grief was so intense that he had to be alone. If Thomas was not the “doubter” he has been proclaimed throughout the ages, he was at least a pessimist. That Jesus had risen seemed too good to be true and Thomas’ grief was so great he could not believe his fellow disciples.

A full week passed before Thomas rejoined the disciples. Imagine that week as the disciples tried to convince Thomas that they had indeed seen Christ. It would be unfair to think that Thomas’ request for tangible proof was a good example of his day-to-day faith life. Thomas, after all, became a saint. It is easy to become disillusioned when one looks only at isolated events or when individuals are singled out as examples of the “Catholic attitude.”

None of us is as unbelieving as any single event of our lives might make us seem. Neither are we as faithful as any single good action might portray. We are, in fact, a people moving toward a faith we have yet to achieve. Our good actions are hints of what we can be. Our lapses and failures are reminders of our continual need to reach beyond ourselves.

Sometimes, our very lack of faith at a given moment leads us to greater faith. To know that we do not believe enough is to recognize that we have believed with greater faith at another time.





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