In Mercy He Comes to Us

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

The Gospels tell an incredible story. A virginal conception. Miraculous healings. Even people coming back from the dead. How are we to know that it’s not all just a fanciful fabrication?

There is much evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, but here is one of the strongest bits of evidence I know. Think for a minute. If you were part of a group who decided to perpetrate an elaborate hoax, what would be your motive? Wouldn’t you want to gain some significant benefits from such a risky business? Maybe fortune, fame, and privilege? And if you were to be prominent figures in this tall tale, wouldn’t you at least want the story to make you look good?

But in the story told by the apostles, virtually all of them look really bad. During Jesus public ministry they repeatedly fail to “get it.” In fact Jesus wears himself out trying to hammer the truth through their thick skulls. After witnessing three years worth of miracles, one of them betrays Jesus and their leader denies him. All but one run away when he’s crucified, and no one believes Mary Magdalene when she brings them the news of his resurrection.

But the episode recounted in John 20:19-31 takes the cake. The Risen Christ appears to the twelve on Easter Sunday evening. Or rather, I should say he appeared to the ten.  Judas, the traitor, had taken his own life. And Thomas, the twin, missed the occasion.  When Thomas returns to the group, he refuses to believe them. He demands empirical proof submitted personally to his lordship: “Unless I put my finger in the nail marks in his hands and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” This sound more like a pouting of a child than the words of an apostle.

In justice, Jesus could have just said “enough.” Thomas had already seen so much. Acts 1 tells us that Judas was replaced by Matthias. This ungrateful skeptic could easily have been replaced as well.

But Jesus does not deal with us by virtue of strict justice. God forbid! No, he comes to us in mercy, giving us what we do not deserve. And that’s how he dealt with this doubter. A week later, he gives him what he asked for. Imagine how badly Thomas yearned to eat his words as he put his hand into the sacred side of the New Adam.

Thomas can’t be said to come to true “faith” in the resurrection through all this. Because faith is about believing what you can’t see. Walking by faith means NOT walking by sight. In heaven, we’ll see God face to face, so “faith” will be no more. Blessed, says Jesus, are those who have not seen, and yet believe.

But Thomas does come to faith in something else that he can’t quite see. He saw Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain plus the daughter of Jairus all raised from the dead.

Thomas now looks at yet another risen human being before him and says what he did not say to the prior three: “My Lord and My God.”  Thomas here professes what can only be seen by the eye of faith. The resurrection of Jesus is not just a marvel for Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Jesus is not just some first century Houdini. No, his resurrection is a sign that he is the Messiah, the King, even the Eternal God, come in the flesh.

So this man, humbled by Christ’s mercy, is content to be known for all generations as “Doubting Thomas.” He and the other apostles spread a story in which they look real bad. And for it they receive not privilege but persecution and death.

So why do they spread the story? Because it’s the truth. And because it’s a proclamation of the mercy of God who does not reject the thick-headed, the weak, and the doubting but instead gives them the power to become strong, loving, and wise. “Behold,” says Jesus, “I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday (Year A) — Acts 2:42-47; Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; First Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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