This past Sunday we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Gospel was the story of St. Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was risen from the dead.
So this got me thinking “What do mercy and the story of St. Thomas have in common?”
What I came up with was this: We have to show mercy to those who doubt us. Those who doubt our faith. Those who doubt the existence of Jesus, they doubt His love. They doubt not only His existence…they doubt His existence within us.
That’s probably why we take it personally (okay I take it personally, speaking for myself) when people say they are skeptics or doubters or unbelievers. It’s like they are saying they don’t believe in us. And we are sitting right in front of them and talking to them yet they say “I don’t believe.”
I’m actually quite hurt by four simple words – “I don’t believe you.”
It’s one thing for people to say they don’t believe in God. Okay, I get it. Well, actually I don’t get it but I’ll accept that you believe that.
But what I’ve noticed is that when you try to explain to a non-believer how God has shaped and completely changed your life only to hear them say they still don’t believe – that’s crushing and really devastating.
If I may be completely honest, this is what causes me sleepless nights. I know there’s doubters among us. And some of them I’m very close to. But they doubt any existence of God, causing a huge (and unspoken) rift in our friendship.
But then we come back to mercy. How would I begin to try to help untwist their “unbelief” while still showing them mercy?
I would need the same kind of reaction Jesus got from Thomas. I would need my Thomas’ to take notice and say, “Wow, this person went through something. This person lived through something. I might not relate to it directly but I believe they experienced something profound.”
There’s a name for this. It’s called being a witness.
We can all be a witness, actually. One way to is through the spoken word, usually the most common and most popular, in my opinion.
I never heard a witness talk until 3 years ago on a young adult retreat. I hadn’t even been on a retreat since maybe 8th grade. I was long overdue.
The first witness speaker on this particular retreat had quite the story. She told an incredible story that although it wasn’t directly relate-able to my life, it was a human experience that all of us in that room found very moving. It was incredibly sad and touching and left not a dry eye among us after it was over.
I have since been on numerous retreats and made Renewal at my parish where I heard more witness talks. And just last fall I had the privilege of being one of those witness speakers.
I cannot even begin to tell you how healing it is to share your journey with others. With total strangers! It was scary at first, but I was SO ready to get back up and share it all over again as soon as I was finished. Ever since, I have felt a calling of sorts to speak my story.
I have gone back and forth with myself if I should share my story here but it really truly is best HEARD and not READ. (Reminds me of my Spiritual Director who gives such great homilies but was hesitant to share them on his blog for the same reason. “Homilies are meant to be heard, to be proclaimed, not read.”)
Another priest mentioned in a homily recently on the same topic of witness talks:
“I couldn’t help but think what a different place the world would be if each of us had the opportunity, the desire, the incentive to tell and share these stories of faith or be attentive to other’s stories. How God’s presence would be irrefutable, overwhelming and certain for those who don’t believe or struggle to see God near…This is the message we are called to live – with our words and in our actions – so that others who say, “Show me” will be able to exclaim, “We have seen the Lord!”
So the challenge is how can I, how can anyone for that matter, share their witness with others who are open to hearing it? We can’t just blurt it out. We can’t just tell people our messy problems and expect them to understand us better than ourselves. But what we can do is invite them in to our mess. And they can see how Jesus cleans it up!
Because, you know, Jesus didn’t force Thomas to touch Him. He invited Thomas to touch His wounds. So…wouldn’t that suggest to us that we invite people into our mess? Our brokenness? Our struggles?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and answer yep! (Finally after years of going to mass I think I’m finally getting this whole “applying the Gospel to your life” thing).
So consider this your formal invitation into my broken world.
Hopefully, if you ever have the chance to hear my witness story, you can say “Truly, the Lord has been at work in this woman’s life!”
From there, maybe you can find Him at work in your life too.