Divine Mercy, Humility, Gratitude and the “Doubting Thomas”

“My Lord and my God!”

Caravaggio (1602-1603): Doubting Thomas

Here is a translation of a commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter.

“Unless I Place My Hand in His Side, I Will Not Believe”  (John 20:19-31)

“Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said: ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’”

With the emphasis on the incident of Thomas and his initial incredulity (“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, I will not believe”), the Gospel addresses the man of the technological age who believes only what he can verify. Among the apostles, we can call Thomas our contemporary.

St. Gregory the Great says that, with his incredulity, Thomas was more useful to us than all the other apostles who believed right away. Acting in this way, so to speak, he obliged Jesus to give us a “tangible proof of the truth of his resurrection.” Faith in the resurrection benefited by his doubts. This is true, at least in part, when applied to the numerous “Thomases” of today who are the nonbelievers.

The criticism of nonbelievers and dialogue with them, when carried out in respect and reciprocal loyalty, are very useful to us. Above all they make us humble. They oblige us to take note that faith is not a privilege or an advantage for anyone. We cannot impose it or demonstrate it, but only propose it and show it with our life. “What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:7). In the end, faith is a gift, not a merit, and as all gifts it can only be lived in gratitude and humility.

The relationship with nonbelievers also helps us to purify our faith of clumsy representations. Very often what nonbelievers reject is not the true God, the living God of the Bible, but his double, a distorted image of God that believers themselves have contributed to create. Rejecting this God, nonbelievers oblige us to go back to the truth of the living and true God, who is beyond all our representations and explanations, and not to fossilize or trivialize him.

Peter Paul Rubens (1613-1615): Doubting Thomas

But there is also a wish to be expressed: that St. Thomas might find today many imitators not only in the first part of his story — when he states he does not believe — but also at the end, in that magnificent act of faith that leads him to exclaim: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas is also imitable because of another fact. He does not close the door; he does not remain in his position, considering the problem resolved once and for all. In fact, we find him eight days later with the other apostles in the Cenacle. If he had not wished to believe, or to “change his opinion,” he would not have been there. He wants to see, to touch: Therefore, he is searching. And at the end, after he has seen and touched with his hand, he exclaims to Jesus, not as someone defeated but as victorious: “My Lord and my God!” No other apostle had yet gone out to proclaim Christ’s divinity with so much clarity.




In a time of overt secularism, during which our Lord so often a one hour activity, we need to be reminded who is King of the Universe.

“If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society.” (Pius XI, Quas Primas, 24)

And this is not optional. He always has been, is and ever will be, King and Lord of the visible and invisible. We may ignore His kingship but His rights and dominion are irrefutable and without limit.

The way the Preface expresses His kingship today blew me away – especially the phrase that:

he might present to the immensity of your majesty [emphasis mine].

The “immensity of your majesty.” Oh my gosh! It reminds me of our understanding that when the Father reflected finitely upon Himself, the Father called forth creation in a multitudenous array revealing His eternal attributes throughout creation. Creation literally bears the fingerprints of God. The Psalms express it this way:

The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. (Ps 19:1-2)

What does His kingship demand of us? Holiness. Faithfulness. A life lived “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:6). I would also suggest that it is a life of praise. Americans seem to think that praise is a silent action but our tradition explains that it is a vocal expression of His sovereignty. We use words like praise, adore, glorify and honor. In fact, these words are not synonyms – even if the distinctions are ever so slight. We were created:

to praise: is to speak well of someone’s good qualities or deeds. It implies awareness of someone’s excellence, internal approval, and manifesting approbation of that which is praised. Strictly speaking, praise refers to activity, especially holiness in God and virtuous conduct in people. But the term is also applied to the character or nature of the one whose actions are praiseworthy.

to adore: is to recognize God as the one alone who is worthy of supreme honor because he is infinitely perfect, has supreme dominion over humans, and the right to human total dependence on the Creator.

to glorify: is to recognize and praise someone’s excellence. In particular, it is given to God by all creatures without exception, by their mere existence, insofar as they mirror the divine perfections.

to honor: is the reverence and respect given because of His recognized excellence.

I would like to invite everyone to take some time every day, even if it is in the solitude of our bedroom, to give the Lord of Glory praise, adoration, glory and honor that is due His name/kingship. As a practical action for today, I would like to invite you to reflect a little longer on today’s preface:

For you anointed your Only Begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, with the oil of gladness
as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption,
and, making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your majesty
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.



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