It’s been so busy, with Holy Week and Easter, that you are probably reading this at the same time as Fr. Mark Vander Steeg’s Easter column.
This Second Sunday of Easter will be almost as busy as Easter — and perhaps even more so. Not only is it the Octave of Easter (the eighth day), and Divine Mercy Sunday, this year also brings a historic event: the canonization of two popes.
With all that, it’s going to be hard to remember that this is what we used to call Thomas Sunday. Thomas, forever to be known as Doubting Thomas, is the focus of this Sunday’s Gospel. Having had the misfortune to not be in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday evening, Thomas got left out of the first appearance of the risen Lord to the other apostles. He catches up a week later — on the eighth day.
The eighth day is a symbolic term meant to remind us that God exists beyond time: there are not eight days in a week — except in the new creation that is the glory of the kingdom, revealed in the risen Christ.
With Thomas’ story, we see real life mixing with the wonder of Easter that we’ve been enjoying for a week. Like the other disciples, we have been seeing the risen Jesus, alive again. We see through their eyes. They had seen the new creation firsthand and had received the gift of Christ’s peace.
However, Thomas hadn’t. He wants to believe, but can’t because he hasn’t experienced that new creation fully. The horror of the crucifixion is still vivid for him. He’s still afraid and expects someone to break in and take him away too. And, like many of us who miss out on a special event, he probably feels resentful of what the others have experienced.
He’s still like the others were at the Last Supper when they didn’t know what was going on, but thought they were ready for anything — even to die with Jesus.
Thomas himself expressed that fervor when they planned on returning to Judea to help Lazarus. And look at Peter. He had promised to lay down his life for Jesus — only to deny him three times before sunrise. The rest, except the beloved disciple, ran away in fear and hid.
Thomas is still afraid. So he demands physical proof before he can believe in the eighth day.
Here we are, on the eighth day, the Octave of Easter — sometimes called Whit Sunday because of the white Easter robes traditionally worn by the newly baptized. We’re still stuck in reality, in a world with seven days in a week. We, like Thomas, desperately want to believe in Easter and the new creation. Yet we doubt. Our weaknesses and failings keep tripping us up. We need the Lord to enter through the locked doors and bring us peace.
Thomas is our patron saint. Whenever we have Thomas Sundays — or Mondays, or Tuesdays … all we have to do is remember to say: “My Lord and my God.”
And, just for a moment, Jesus will be there and the eighth day will break in upon us.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers.”