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2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER (DIVINE MERCY): UNDERSTANDING THE RUBRIC OF FAITH

Jesus uses Thomas to prescribe what can be identified as the rubric of faith in the gospel of this second Sunday of Easter, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Here, we are presented with two dimensions of faith: no. 1) Thomas’s absence at Jesus’ appearance and later, his faith declaration, is the individual dimension. Yet through Thomas, we encounter the second phase, as Peter describes in Acts of the Apostles: no. 2) “the community of believers,” is the communal dimension. The rubric of faith involves both.

 

1.     THE RUBRIC OF FAITH INTEGRATES THE BELIEVER INTO GOD’S FAMILY

John’s language begins with exposing the privileges of being a believer. Once baptized, we are begotten by God and entrusted with the commandments. John (1 Jn. 5:1-6) wants us to realize that living in God’s commandments makes the Christian life easy as he puts it, “Faith is the victory that conquers the world.” Faith presents as a weapon for believers, enabling us to not just fight, but to overcome the world. This is found in the victory of Christ on the cross. Faith brings us into communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, since our relationship gets strengthened by living according to his commandments. Faith is “the guarantee of the blessings that we hope for, or proof of the existence of realities that are unseen” (Heb. 11:1).


2.     THE RUBRIC OF FAITH STRENGTHENS COMMUNITY LIVING

In today’s gospel, John records two accounts of the Lord’s appearance after his resurrection. Significantly, one of the apostles, Thomas, is absent at the first visit. Thomas' absence is emphasized because of its impact on the community of faith, more so, as his colleagues narrate the visit to him. Thomas wants to see for himself. So, he doubts. Somehow similar to Thomas, scripture recounts Mary Magdalene’s reporting of her story to the disciples and their doubt, “She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mk. 16: 1-14). 

Faith defines the Christian community. But Thomas’ doubt puts a crack on its transcendental connection. Jesus’ appearance becomes the repair of the communal bond which was important for the disciples as witnesses to the resurrection. We need a communal faith to build the desired support system as believers strengthened by/in one another’s faith.


3.     THE RUBRIC OF FAITH DEFINES OUR DAILY LIVING

Think about our regular lives and the things we do. As human beings, we simply live by believing, sometimes without realizing it. We believe in scientists and technicians. We believe in our doctors when we are sick. We believe in our insurance companies. We believe in our banks. We believe in our lawyers. We believe in therapists when we go for counseling. We believe in our teachers. We believe in the pilot when we fly. We believe in the police to maintain security. We believe in the engineers who construct our houses. We believe in our food. We believe in our dogs. We even believe in our computers and cellphones, etc. You know why it is hard to believe in God? Because it is in the natural nature of humans to see, then believe. That is found in Thomas’ action, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Is Thomas alone?

Christ reminds us of what is unnatural, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” This is what makes believers different. We are not limited by the laws of nature. Divine law reverses the order. We pray because we believe before seeing. Scripture insists, "It is impossible to please God without faith since anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists" (Heb. 11:6). 


4.     THE RUBRIC OF FAITH IS A CONVEYOR OF MERCY

Christ invites Thomas to a unique encounter with mercy, "Put your finger here; look here are my hands" (John 20: 27). In Peter’s words, God is the “GREAT MERCY” who “has given us a new birth as sons/daughters... (1Pet. 1:3). Faith makes God's mercy abundantly reachable in the DIVINE, EVER-FLOWING MERCY. Pope Francis also indicates, "God's name is Mercy." 

The community of faith celebrates God's mercy in the Blessed Eucharist. Like the apostles, we gather at the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2: 42) as community. Like Thomas, we are beckoned to put our finger forward and reverently touch Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus alone dispels our unbelief (cf. Jn.20:28). Such an encounter transforms us into an authentic faith declaration, “My Lord and my God!”


5.     THE RUBRIC OF FAITH RELIES ON THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christ tells his Church (community), “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn.20:22-23). In the Holy Spirit, we are set free from sin. Today’s psalm recounts: "Let the house of Israel say, His mercy endures forever" (Ps.118:2-4). God's mercy reaches us through the Holy Spirit. In the confessional, the priest prays over the penitent, “God the Father of Mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled us and has sent us the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins….” God’s mercy endures forever, and for everyone.


Celebrating the feast of Divine Mercy empowers us to understand this rubric of faith, where, as believers, we touch the wounds of Christ. Like Saint Augustine, we can say, "I believe in order to understand” (Credo Ut Intelligam). Like Saint Anselm we can profess, "I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand." Like Saint Thomas we can acknowledge, “My Lord and my God.” Hence, we “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” as we attain the goal of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls" (cf. 1Pet.1:8-9). Faith precedes vision in both asking for God’s mercy and in taking this mercy to others.


Tough as it is, Christ wants us to experience the great love of God in a special way. What a privilege that we are disciples of mercy through faith. Jesus would be smiling to hear us say to someone today, “Peace be with you.”

 

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

 

Readings: 1st- Acts 4:32-35; 2nd- 1 Jn. 5:1-6; Gospel- Jn. 20:19-31

 

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