HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: “UNLESS I SEE THE MARK OF THE NAILS IN HIS HANDS, AND PUT MY FINGER IN THE MARK OF THE NAILS AND MY HAND IN HIS SIDE, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.” (John 20:25)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
What does it take to believe? We learn from today’s Gospel what the answer was for Thomas. Needing physical proof that the familiar face before him, now peaceful and even smiling, was the same face he’d seen just days before contorted in pain and bleeding from thorn-pierced brow, Thomas demanded, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) And so Jesus took the trembling hand of Thomas and brought it to the still-fresh wounds. Touching the wounds while gazing into the peaceful eyes: this was what Thomas needed to believe.
For us, almost numbed by the familiarity of this story and so far removed in time from the incident, its power may be lost. And besides, the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection comes so quickly after his agony and death that it’s easy to minimize the extent of the suffering he endured for us. We’ve never actually had to wait three whole days, like his disciples, to see if Jesus would actually rise as he’d promised. Unlike Thomas and the other disciples, much less seems asked of us faith-wise. We know the whole story at once; not so, though, for those first disciples. Because of this, other images might help us to appreciate what Jesus did for us in dying and rising. Let a true story rekindle our faith:
“After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Weakened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.” (Original Source Unknown) I wonder what thoughts were with the forest ranger when he pushed aside the charred remains of the bird to discover that, by her death, she’d given life to her chicks. I wonder if the forest ranger considered long what this grisly yet loving scene meant. Chirping chicks nesting in the smoldering remains—with each peep, he touched a raw wound, the fatal burns of mother bird.
Blooming life where one expected to find only death: that’s the mystery and the miracle. It happened three days after Calvary and it happened again after a raging blaze in Yellowstone National Park. Blooming life where one expected to find only death: that’s the mystery and the miracle.