2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY) YEAR A, APRIL 19, 2020 (R. 1: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; R. 2: 1 Peter 1: 3-9; Gospel: John 20: 19-31)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
MY LORD AND MY GOD!!!
Thomas! Thomas!! Thomas!!! How many times did I call your name? Three times, right? Ok. Just in case you don’t know, in my village, when an elder calls your name three consecutive times, it means you are in big trouble. Thomas, why are you so pessimistic? Why do you always look at things from a negative point of view? Why are you so suspicious? Why can’t you trust and believe just for once? Now, I know why your parents gave you the name Thomas. I have not checked, but I have overheard people say that your name means “The doubting one.” Can you imagine how happy and eager the other apostles were to share the good news with you that Jesus was alive? Why were you not with them when Jesus appeared to them last Sunday? Because you are so suspicious and doubtful, you isolated yourself and became “Man alone.” And when those who saw him told you Jesus was alive, you had the boldness to say unless you see the marks of the nails in his hands and put your fingers, you would not believe. Who do you think you are?
Thomas, this is not the first time that you are showing yourself. I have access to your track record. You remember, recently, when the news came to Jesus that Lazarus was dead, and Jesus told you and the other apostles to follow him to Bethany where Lazarus lived, what did you say? You said, “Let us also go that we may die with him” (John 11: 16). Who told you Jesus was going there to die, if not your negative mind? That was not all; after Jesus washed the feet of his apostles, he told all of you that he would return to his Father and prepare a place for you. Do you remember what you said to Jesus right away? You can’t deny it; I have the record. If you claim to have forgotten, I will remind you. You said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Why must you question everybody and everything? Thomas, are you just looking at me? Have you nothing to say? Just so you know, in my village, it is an insult to keep quiet when an elder is asking you questions. Ok, you want to talk? I will listen to you.
Fr. Emmanuel! Fr. Emmanuel!! Fr. Emmanuel!!! How many times did I call your name? Three times, right? Ok. Just in case you don’t know, in my village, when an accused person calls your name three consecutive times, it means you have stepped beyond your boundaries. You accused me of always looking at things from a negative point of view. Can’t you see that you are guiltier than I am in this matter? Are you not the one who is unable to see the positive side of the role I played in the resurrection story? Are you not the one who is only interested in what you perceive as negative about me in the Gospel?
Fr. Emmanuel, you were right when you called me Thomas. But you were wrong when you said the name means “The doubting one.” Just for the record, my name Thomas is the Greek form of the Aramaic name, Ta’oma’, which means “twin.” Did you hear that? And as a twin, I don’t just look at one side of the coin (story), I look at both sides of the coin (story) to come up with an objective conclusion. You heard from gossips that my name means “The doubting one,” and you believed. Why did you not ask me, the owner of the name? Learn to hear the other side of the story before you draw your conclusions.
Fr. Emmanuel, with all your studies and reflections, have you not realized that my doubt gives more credibility to the story of the resurrection than the faith of the others does? Let me explain. It is on account of my doubt that the story of the resurrection can not be seen as one that was concocted and propagated by a bunch of gullible and uneducated apostles. My role as the leader of the opposition party among the apostles gives authenticity to the story. My doubt shows that the story of the resurrection was challenged and tested by the apostles before it became trusted. Can you see how I have helped you? If there are skeptics, atheists, unbelievers, etc. among you who question the truth of the resurrection, you can now tell them that they are not the first, that someone who was at the scene challenged it over 2000 years ago, but, he made his submission saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Fr. Emmanuel, stop being ungrateful! Did you hear what Jesus said? He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now, tell me, “Thank you!” You know why? Jesus just blessed you because I doubted. If I did not doubt, he would not have said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Instead of calling me names, you should be thanking me.
I know you think I am the worst of the Apostles except for Judas Iscariot. You eloquently preach about how I doubted, but you forget the good things I have done. Do you remember when Jesus said, “The first will be last, and the last will be first”? Do you see that my life is a testimony to that? It is on record that I was the last of the Apostles to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, but it is also on record that I became the first to profess belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Do you understand what I mean? Before this episode, all of us, the apostles, had referred to Jesus as Lord, Master, Teacher, Rabbi. Even the other day, when Peter gave that answer that led to his promotion, he only called him Christ, Messiah. But I became the first to call him God when I said, “My Lord and my God.” It is true, I doubted, but when I came to believe, I believed more than others, I called him my God. Why did you not notice that?
Fr. Emmanuel, let this be a lesson for you and your parishioners. It is never over until it is over. The first can be last, and the last can be first. Don’t brag too much about the fact that you were born Catholic, attended Catholic schools, received all the Sacraments early enough, and that you are in full communion with the Church without any form of irregularities. Don’t think it is by your power that you are not a single mom. Don’t think it is by your strength that your marriage is still standing. Don’t laugh at those who have fallen away from the faith, for you can never know their complete story. Those you look down on today may become better than you tomorrow. Saul persecuted Christians, but when he gained his conversion, he stole the show from the apostles; he became more popular than those of us who came before him. Remember that the first to join Jesus in heaven from the cross was one of the thieves crucified along with him.
Fr. Emmanuel, instead of talking about how I doubted, why not tell your parishioners how the visit of Jesus after his resurrection reveals the gift of Divine Mercy, which we celebrate today. Jesus did not come on a fault-finding mission. His gift to his disciples was, “Peace be with you… Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them…” One would have expected him to have expressed his disappointment over Peter’s threefold denial of him. One would have expected him to have scolded the disciple who ran away naked when Christ was arrested. It would have been understandable for him to have rebuked me for doubting the testimony of the ten. But he did none of those; he forgave us before we could apologize, and he empowered us to forgive others. Fr. Emmanuel, I was angry that you called me names at the beginning of your homily, but since Jesus has forgiven me and has given me peace, I also forgive you. Now, you go and forgive all those who have offended you even if they don’t apologize, then you will find peace in your life.