When I was in Nepal, I met a missionary priest who is from Kerala in South India. After Sunday Masses, we would have conversations over a cup of milk tea (yes, the first milk tea I tasted was in 1998 in Nepal). We would talk about a variety of topics including our respective countries, current events, beer, and eventually would end up about how our faith has influenced the way we look at life. And jokingly he told me one time, “Alan, our Catholicism is a direct connection with Jesus, unlike yours (the Philippines) which was influenced by Spanish missionaries, St. Thomas one of the Twelve, preached in South India.”
Yes, Thomas, the one we fondly call the “doubting” apostle. He was one of the more outspoken and courageous among the disciples. There’s this account in the Gospel of John, when Lazarus had recently died “the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, where some Jews had attempted to stone Jesus” (en.wikipedia.org). Thomas says: “Let us also go to die with him.” (Jn. 11: 16). Also, some of the most famous words that the Lord uttered were answers to Thomas questions.
In the Gospel (Jn. 20: 19-31), St. John tells how doubting Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the other apostles, saying, “Except I shall see on his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas saw Jesus a week later when he joined the disciples assembled together and then the Lord told him,
your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Thomas responded radically after that. When he saw the Lord up front, his conversion was total and complete. Tradition states that he travelled outside of the Roman Empire to as far as South India to preach the Gospel. What appears to be the challenge for most of us regarding our faith in the Risen Lord is being affirmed by St. Thomas. He provides us with the evidence that the Lord is truly risen! The Lord has assured us further that “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
In this Divine Mercy Sunday, we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit that our faith be strengthened and fortified despite “not seeing” Jesus physically. Our life, the peace of mind and the graces that we receive in abundance are more than proof of His presence in our lives. His guidance and discernment direct our paths as we seek to follow His will. Despite our weaknesses and sins, His mercy continuously overflows and is in fact more important than all the material wealth that He has bestowed on us. With fervent prayer and abundant hope, we are confident that His Divine Mercy grant us the gift of Eternal Life with Him someday.
May this assurance strengthen us more and more that despite our weaknesses, His Grace and Divine Mercy are enough to nourish and sustain us till the end of time.
“You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord; blessed are those who have not seen me, but still believe!” (Jn. 20: 29)