YEAR A: HOMILY FOR DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
HOMILY THEME: “Thomas said, ‘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
HOMILY: John 20:19-31
“Charlie went to the barbershop for a haircut and a beard trimming. As the barber began his work, the two became engaged in animated conversation covering a wide range of topics. When eventually they touched on the subject of God, the barber proclaimed emphatically, ‘I don’t believe that God exists.’ ‘Why do you say that?’ replied an astonished Charlie. ‘Well,’ continued the barber, ‘You just have to go out into the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, surely there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.’
“Charlie remained silent in thought for the moment, hoping to avoid an argument. Then, the barber finishing the haircut and beard trim, Charlie left the shop. But just steps from the barbershop door, he spotted an unkempt man with long, stringy, hair and an untrimmed beard walking the sidewalk. Charlie did an about face, re-entered the barbershop and addressed the barber. ‘You know what? Barbers do not exist.’ ‘How can you say that?’ responded the flabbergasted barber. ‘I am here, and I am a barber. And I just cut your hair and trimmed your beard!’ ‘No!’ Charlie exclaimed. ‘Barbers don’t exist, because if they did, there wouldn’t be people with long dirty hair and untrimmed beards walking the streets like the man I just saw right outside your door.’
“Replied the barber, ‘Ah, but barbers do exist. What happens is that people don’t come to the barber.’ ‘Exactly!’ proclaimed Charlie. ‘That’s the very point! God exists too! What happens is that people don’t go to Him.’” (Original source unknown)
Surely, pain, suffering and death do co-exist with the ever-present and loving God who has promised to be with us through it all before bringing us to an eternal home that will leave us wanting for nothing. But, as the incredulous barber insisted, how could this be? How can we believe in a God who would allow such awful things to happen to good, innocent people? And more, why ever would an all-powerful God chose to become as weak and defenseless as are we, choosing to be subject to all the pain and suffering the world can muster? Further, how could we ever believe that Jesus, God’s son, conquered death itself, promising us that we’d do the same if we but live in him? How could this be?
Faith is the only possible response to these questions. Human reason cannot lead us to believe any of this could be true. As we find in today’s gospel passage, Thomas was not so unlike the disbelieving barber, both of them needing physical proof for what reason could not accept. “Thomas said, ‘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)
I came to hospital ministry many years ago without the doubts of either the barber or the apostle Thomas, yet I regularly found myself awestruck when I encountered the resurrected Jesus in the wounded lives that day by day touched mine. Walking among those whose long-suffering might have led to disbelief for the very same reasons the fictional barber could not believe, I stood amazed before faith vibrant and rock firm even as death seemed but steps away.
Unlike Thomas who had to ask for a sign before he could believe, the signs I was freely given each day strengthened my faith that life is stronger than death, hope and love greater than despair and bitterness. As a hospital chaplain, I touched the nail marks of hope-filled patients every day, sign enough for me that Jesus conquered death—and so will we.