What are you afraid of?  What rips your hope away from you, raises doubts about circumstances within you?   When have you felt such bitter, repeated disappointment that it causes you to hurt too much to hope? The past couple years have certainly tested the faith of many people. Maybe you are one of them. Sickness, deaths, job losses, natural disasters and political turmoil. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, all the natural disasters exhaust us and can cause us to lose hope.  For some it may hurt too much to hope.

I suspect this is some of what Thomas felt in our gospel story today as well. Thomas’s doubt was before he saw Jesus. His doubt was in the truth of the other apostles as they tell him they saw Jesus.  But he knew Jesus had been crucified and died.  It wasn’t possible what they were saying.  And as much as he might have wanted it, his spirit had to be crushed. They were all living in fear with their hopes dashed.  The events of the day had to be overwhelming. I suspect it hurt too much to hope.  And then – in walks Jesus.  But he understands.  Jesus understands!  He experienced doubts and pain and suffering in his humanity.  He knew how Thomas was frustrated with the other disciples and how he was disappointed that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was followed by His exit from the city carrying a cross less than a week later. The Lord knew what Thomas was going through and had mercy for him.  The Lord knows what each of us is going through in our lives – and has mercy toward us as well.

Jesus also knew how easy it is to lose hope when a crisis hits. Think about his words on the cross “my God my God, why have you abandoned me?” Along with the physical pain, Jesus knew what it was like to feel completely abandoned. All of his apostles save one had disappeared at his time of greatest need!  On Good Friday, we saw kindness, compassion and love nailed to the cross.  In this gospel, he comes to Thomas – and to us – to show us his wounds. When it hurts too much to hope, when life has wounded us, when we are exhausted in our faith – the Risen Christ; with his disfigured wounds, is waiting to get into our wounded and disfigured lives.  He knows our pain. He knows our feelings of abandonment. From his sacrifice on the cross; to his sacrifice at the altar, he wraps us in his mercy and love, and makes us whole!

Easter is a season of faith and faith is all about belief.  Belief in something greater than us. Belief especially in the face of adversity and fear. Belief when all is darkness and there is no reason to believe!  Belief even when it hurts too much to hope! Belief that leads us out of darkness into the light of hope and joy! At Easter, Jesus turns on the lights of hope again!  Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” It is a clarion call to each of us to have faith, to believe, even in the face of serious doubts and fears. Even when it hurts too much to hope!

As we enter into the season of Easter we are reminded also of the mercy of God on this, Divine Mercy Sunday.  We are called – particularly in times of struggle – to see beyond our fears and recognize the hope of our Lord Jesus. Jesus is patient with us, just as he was with Thomas. He understands our doubts and calms us with His words “Peace be with you!”  He is well pleased with those who have total faith with no doubts, but is merciful to those who have doubts – and he continues to call us to Him in merciful love. He longs for us to take a step outside of ourselves and our wants, and recognize our need for His Presence in our lives. He showers us with his grace when we say as Thomas did – “Jesus, you are my Lord and my God!”

In our gospel for Holy Thursday, an often overlooked statement is “He loved his own in the world, and he loved them to the end.” He never stops loving us!  He never lets go! Jesus came to us in humanity that we might come to know Him. He suffered for us in His Passion that we might be redeemed. He becomes fully present to us – body and blood, soul and divinity – through the Eucharist that we might be fed and have ever lasting life. God’s mercy is so extensive that we can never be out of reach for His mercy.  His love, His mercy, His hope never ends!

As Vincentians, every day we minister to people who find themselves in situations which have rendered them indecisive and paralyzed with fear. They find themselves filled with dismay, hopeless and feeling as though they are failures.  hey are hurting too much to hope. They may not know Jesus as we do. Now more than ever, God calls us as he did the apostles, to send us out to those who are hurting.  He calls us past our fears to stand up and proclaim his love, his mercy, his hope! He calls us to become one with him in new life as children of God.  He calls us to proclaim the ocean of graces he pours out to those who seek his mercy and inexhaustible love for us. The question for each of us to contemplate today, is how each of us – as disciples of Christ – as Vincentians – can make known to a world, a country, a community that is hurting; to make known the love, the mercy and the hope of our Lord Jesus?  How can we move ourselves and others past the hurts, past the doubts, and past the fears, to make tomorrow be a little better?  Do we, through our presence, our patience and our persistence help them to see their path forward? Do we give them a sense of hope?  Do we engender in them a confidence to act with decisiveness and move forward in life with renewed confidence?  Are we the Jesus of the Resurrection to those who are most in need?

Lord Jesus, Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  My hope is in the Lord, for He is risen and salvation belongs to me!  Lord grace me with the patience, the confidence and the words to be your presence to those who are afraid and hurting.  Help my belief and trust in you to be so evident that they recognize in you their salvation and hope as well.  Allow them to see their path forward through the words and actions you give to me.  We pray all of this in your name.  Amen

Deacon Mike