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Fr. Jarrod Waugh, C.S.C., was ordained a priest on April 6, 2013, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Here is the homily from his First Mass, celebrated at Christ the King parish on Sunday, April 7, 2013, where he has been serving this past year as a deacon.
We continue our “alleluias!” today, the Second Sunday of Easter, which has also come to be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a day when, like at the Easter Vigil itself, we recall the single most amazing gift that God ever gave to the human race — the gift of His Son to be our Savior. As we heard in the Exultet that Holy Night, “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed…to ransom a slave, you gave away your Son.” But, alleluia! Thanks be to God, we have been redeemed, and today in a special way we give thanks for and beg again to be bathed in that unspeakable Mercy of our God who loves us, who loves us before we can deserve it, and who by His very loving us, makes us truly lovable, and enables us to share that love with one another.
We have so very much to be grateful for as Christian sisters and brothers, and in a very special way today, I am grateful for a gift that I received yesterday, and am excited and humbled to be able to share with you today. There are many people who have been important parts of my own faith journey who are here with us today, to join our parish family in giving thanks with me for the gift of the priesthood, and the privilege and duty that I am honored to offer, the Holy Sacrifice of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as we recall when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
I have to take a moment to thank my family, my brother and sister, and brother-in-law, and most of all my Mom and Dad, Jerry and Carolyn. Thank you for making it so easy for me to say yes to God’s invitation. I can never thank you enough. And thank you all so much for your love, prayers and support of me, and thank you for coming here to pray this morning as we give thanks to God for all his gifts, especially for the gift of the Eucharist.
In our Gospel today, we see such a clear example of the gracious and endless Mercy of our Lord, as we read about St. Thomas. We know him as “Doubting Thomas,” the poor guy. We call Peter the first Pope, not “thrice-denying Peter” — which seems a little unfair to Thomas. Tradition tells us that Thomas went all the way to India to spread the Good News, so perhaps we should cut him some slack. When Jesus leaves the Apostles after Thomas finally comes to believe, He tells them, and us, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
We are among those who have not seen Jesus in His earthly Body, but yet believe in His promise, and Thomas’ temporary doubt has been turned into a gift to the Church of a prayer and beautiful proclamation of faith in Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas had a hard time, for a brief while, believing that the Resurrection was really possible, but really, so did the other Apostles at first. Only the women who went to the tomb first seem to have come quickly to begin to understand what had happened. When the Lord comes back to the Apostles that second time, this time when Thomas is there, He shows him the holes in His hands and feet from the nails, and the slash His side from the spear, and tells Thomas, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
But, of course, Thomas had seen so many works and signs of Jesus, and he was quite faithful, still being numbered among the disciples even after the Crucifixion. He did not abandon his friends, though like all but John and the women, he had hidden in fear on that Good Friday. In a way, it’s not hard to understand why Thomas reacted this way at first. He had flirted with despair after Jesus’ execution. The Cross had so taken the wind out his sails, and he was left not knowing where to turn. Suffering and tragedy, the harshness of the Cross can have that effect on us, and some of you may be able to sympathize with Thomas in having those kinds of doubts after such a heartbreak.
But in His loving mercy, just like with Peter, Jesus gives Thomas a second chance. He comes back to give him time to get over his pride and hurt, and to come back to a place of gratitude for all that God had done, and was doing, in his life. Jesus came back for Thomas; He did not hold his temporary wavering against him. He breathed His Holy Spirit into him, and He sent him forth to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
God’s Mercy turns doubt into preaching the Gospel, and transforms despair into sharing the truth of God’s love with the world. Thanks be to God for saving us. Thank you, God, for forgiving us, and loving us. And thank you for your Mercy that sends us forth to share your love with everyone we meet. Alleluia!