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April 23, 2017

After Easter break, a teacher wanted to test her kindergarten students how much they got from the Easter celebration. She said, “I’ll give 2 Easter eggs to any of you who can tell me who was the most famous man who ever lived.”

An Irish boy put his hand up and said, “It was St. Patrick.”  The teacher replied, “Sorry Sean, that’s not correct.”

Then a Scottish boy said, “It was St. Andrew.”  The teacher answered, “I’m sorry, Hamish, that’s not right either.”

Finally, a Jewish boy raised his hand and said, “It was Jesus, the Risen Christ.”  The teacher said, “That’s absolutely right, Marvin, come up here and I’ll give you 2 Easter eggs.”

As the teacher was giving Marvin his eggs, she said, “You know Marvin, since you’re a Jew, I was very surprised you said “Jesus Christ.”  For this the boy replied, “Yeah, in my heart, I knew it was Moses, but business is business…”

The busy-ness of Lent and Easter celebrations have gone.  The quietness of the church has returned (excluding funerals).  I am glad to see so many people in the church on Easter Sunday and during the homily I asked them if they believed in the Resurrection, they answered “Yes I do.”  All 12 appearances of the Lord after the Resurrection give us some reasons to believe in him but the lives of the apostles and the lives of the first Christian communities proved convincingly that the Lord is Risen.

On Easter Sunday, the Lord signaled to the apostles that though they had turned their backs on Him, He would not follow suit. 8 days later, He sent Thomas the message that he shouldn’t miss out on any gathering of his company. The followers of Jesus continued to meet after the Resurrection in the Upper Room as it was free of charge.

Check it out that the Gospel of St. John is anxious for us to know that it was the first day of the week. If you play detective, you will discover that "the First Day of the week" is mentioned in the New Testament a remarkable seven times.  These early Christ’s followers wanted us to understand that Sunday had already become the Lord's Day. So, our gathering at Liturgy on Sundays as a Jesus’ community is no accident. We have taken our cue from the apostles.

The disciples were sitting about in fear behind the locked doors and maybe exchanging rumors. Did they have any spirit for an Easter dinner?  I doubt it.  They would just eat home baked bread (since Judas threw the money back to the chief priests they could not buy any hamburgers and fries). Suddenly the risen Lord burst into their company. Surely several of them fell off their chairs.

His first words "Peace be with you!" has much more impact than our colorless "Good morning or good evening." A free translation would mean, "May God give you every wonderful good!" When you consider who Jesus is, you have to feel good all over immediately. That is why in our liturgy, the greetings “Peace be with you or the Lord be with you” surpasses all other social greetings.  Now you know why I never double the greetings “good morning or good evening” after saying “the Lord be with you” at Mass.

The hero of our Gospel reading this Sunday is Thomas, the twin, who had expected the assassination of Jesus from day one. Recall the time Jesus had proposed going to Bethany to raise their friend Lazarus, where the Temple cops had a search warrant out for Him.  Eleven of the apostles ran scared and asked politely for a rain-check. Thomas shamed them all for being cowards by saying, "Let us all go that we may die with Him."

His faith told him it would be better to die with his Master than live without Him. But his limited knowledge of the faith also told him that once the Master died, He would remain dead and become a rotting corpse.   For many of us, Thomas’ life is our life. Belief and doubt have the nasty habit of co-existing uncomfortably in our honorable selves. If that is your problem, stay loose, you are in the best company ever.  All of us are a mixture of fear and doubt, pessimism and trust, belief and unbelief, saint and sinner.

When Jesus appeared the first time, Thomas was absent. Perhaps he was out looking for a job, since he was a carpenter by trade or coming back to his family relying on their daily meals. When his fellow apostles reported they had seen the risen Lord, he assumed they were hallucinating.   

Thomas did not say he could not believe but rather that he was unable to believe without physical proof. So relax, you are not the first to say, “I believe only what I see.”   Thomas of the Gospel was the last person on the block to believe in the Resurrection, but he was the first of the Twelve and of the whole world to profess absolute belief in the divinity of the risen Savior. The cry "My Lord and my God" that came out of his soul still reverberates down through the centuries. It is the most famous thirty second bite in history.

The Twin Thomas began that second Easter Sunday by asking for a touch of Jesus as man and friend; but, when he pulled back his hand, he realized he was in touch with God Himself. Thomas was blown away by the experience. He would never be the same man again. The Master forgave the apostles for disappearing on Good Friday. He absolved Thomas for his unbelief. All of us have seriously sinned. After studying this Gospel, do you believe that the Resurrected Jesus will also give you a second chance? Why not then give yourself a second chance?

Thomas missed the first appearance of the Lord because he left the community on the First Day of the week.  If you don’t want to miss out on the Lord, don’t ever leave his community especially on the First Day of the week. I saw a great crowd in the church at Easter.  I would be glad to see them again at every “First Day of the week” so they can encounter the Risen Lord in the Eucharist.  The Lord in his Divine Mercy always gives us a second chance.  The question is: do you give yourself a second chance?