Sunday Sermon for April 16, 2023, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year A
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31
In the second reading today, St. Peter talks about the faith we have been given which safeguards the inheritance we have been promised by the Lord. We have this inheritance because we are members of Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus is the Christ because of His death and resurrection and, as St. Peter says, we have this new birth through the resurrection. In the next verse, St. Peter speaks of the trials we will endure to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith.
Why do we need to endure trials? Remember Jesus’ parable of the sower who sowed his seed on four types of ground. The seed sown on rocky ground represents those whose faith sprung up quickly, but died out just as quickly when persecution occurred. This, our Lord said, was because they had no roots. Another seed started to grow among thorns, but was choked off by the cares of the world.
In both types of ground, we see that the faith was lost because of external influences. So, the only way our faith will grow deeper and stronger is by putting it into practice. As we try to use it, we will run into various obstacles that, if we overcome them, helps our faith to grow. But if we give up because of the obstacles, our faith dies out.
Like everything else we do in life. We can buy the latest thing, but if we do not use it, we gain no mastery of it. Think of something you do very well. Now think back to the first few times you tried it. More than likely, things were a bit rough for a while. Without doubt, there have been some occasions where things have not gone well when you tried to exercise your skill. Obviously, if you have achieved some competency in whatever skill this might be, you persevered through the difficulties and the humiliations, and you even learned some great lessons from the occasions when you failed.
Competency in faith also requires perseverance. We must practice it, but we will find that there are doubts and challenges that arise. We must work through these. Each time we have a doubt and reiterate the faith in the face of that doubt, our faith grows deeper and stronger. If we give in to the doubt, it begins to pull out the fibers of our faith.
Sometimes we will fall flat when we needed most to act in faith. For example, when we are challenged and have no answer. It may be when bad things happen and we fail to turn to the Lord for help. Maybe, in the face of multiple difficulties, we turn against the Lord, getting angry and lashing out at Him. As our faith grows, the challenges will become more difficult because we have mastered the smaller things, so the Lord will allow us to be tested with bigger things.
In the midst of all these struggles, it sometimes feels like the Lord has abandoned us. This is also a test to see if we will remain faithful or if we will abandon Him. We see the mercy of God in the Gospel today when Jesus appears to the Apostles and shows His wounds to Thomas who then professes his belief that Jesus is Lord and God. The other Apostles had been telling Thomas about the resurrection for a week, but he would not believe. Instead of appearing to him the next day, the Lord allowed Thomas to doubt and question for an entire week. Only after this period of struggle did the Lord give Thomas the grace to believe. The depth of his faith was increased through many trials and ultimately proven through his martyrdom.
We can also see in the Apostles, as well as the early Christians, that having others who share the faith can be of great assistance. This is especially when the faith is relatively new, as in the first reading. However, for some, that communal way of life remains a necessity because they know their own weakness and they need the help of others to keep them on track. We can learn so much from the teaching and example of those whose faith has been tested and proven!
So, if your faith is being tested, try to recognize it as a gift of God’s mercy. God allows this because He loves you and wants your faith to grow stronger and deeper. This is not only to keep you from falling away but, as St. Peter tells us, it is faith that safeguards our promised inheritance that is kept for us in heaven. So, the stronger our faith, the safer our inheritance. And that inheritance, the goal of our faith, as St. Peter says, is the salvation our souls.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.