Jesus’ merciful words to a doubting St. Thomas reminds us that the Lord does not expect us to be “perfect Christians,” Pope Francis said Sunday.
Instead, Jesus wants us “to seek him, to call on him, or even, like Thomas, to protest, bringing him our needs and our unbelief,” the pope said.
In his reflections prior to the recitation of the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis spoke to a large crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday about the gospel account of Jesus’ encounter with Thomas in the Upper Room.
Thomas, who was not present the first time the resurrected Jesus appeared to the apostles, “represents all of us,” the pope said.
“We too struggle at times like that disciple: How can we believe that Jesus is risen, that he accompanies us and is the Lord of our life without having seen him, without having touched him?
“How can one believe in this? Why does the Lord not give us some clearer sign of his presence and love? Some sign that I can see better,” Pope Francis said.
“Here, we too are like Thomas, with the same doubts, the same reasoning,” he continued.
“But we do not need to be ashamed of this. By telling us the story of Thomas, in fact, the Gospel tells us that the Lord is not looking for perfect Christians. The Lord is not looking for perfect Christians.”
The pope went on to speak in strong terms against an attitude of righteousness and self-assurance.
“I tell you: I am afraid when I see a Christian, some associations of Christians who believe themselves to be perfect. The Lord is not looking for perfect Christians; the Lord is not looking for Christians who never doubt and always flaunt a steadfast faith. When a Christian is like that, something isn’t right,” the pope observed.
“No, the adventure of faith, as for Thomas, consists of lights and shadows. Otherwise, what kind of faith would that be? It knows times of comfort, zeal and enthusiasm, but also of weariness, confusion, doubt, and darkness.
“The Gospel shows us Thomas’ ‘crisis’ to tell us that we should not fear the crises of life and faith,” Pope Francis continued. “Crises are not sins, they are part of the journey, we should not fear them. Many times, they make us humble because they strip us of the idea that we are fine, that we are better than others. Crises help us to recognize that we are needy: they rekindle the need for God and thus enable us to return to the Lord, to touch his wounds, to experience his love anew as if it were the first time.”
The pope said: “Dear brothers and sisters, it is better to have an imperfect but humble faith that always returns to Jesus, than a strong but presumptuous faith that makes us proud and arrogant. Woe to those, woe to them!”
Pope Francis went on to highlight the fact that, after appearing to the apostles while Thomas was not present, he returns a second time.
“Jesus does not give up, he does not get tired of us, he is not afraid of our crises, our weaknesses. He always comes back: When the doors are closed, he comes back; when we are in doubt, he comes back; when, like Thomas, we need to encounter him and to touch him up close, he comes back,” the pope said.
“Jesus always comes back, he always knocks on the door, and he does not come back with powerful signs that would make us feel small and inadequate, even ashamed, but with his wounds; he comes back showing us his wounds, signs of his love that has espoused our frailties,” the pope said.
“Jesus is the Lord of ‘other chances’: He always gives us another one, always. So let us think about the last time — let’s try to remember a little — that, during a difficult moment or a period of crisis, we closed in on ourselves, barricading ourselves in our problems and shutting Jesus out of the house.
“And let us promise ourselves, the next time, in our fatigue, to seek Jesus, to return to him, to his forgiveness — he always forgives, always! — to return to those wounds that have healed us,” Pope Francis said.
“In this way,” the pope urged, “we will also become capable of compassion, of approaching the wounds of others without inflexibility and without prejudice.”
In comments after his reflections, Pope Francis noted that Sunday marked two months since the start of the war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion of the country on Feb. 24.
“Today various Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, and several Latin communities, celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar. We celebrated it last Sunday, following the Gregorian calendar. I offer them my warmest wishes: Christ is risen, he is truly risen! May he fill with hope the good expectations of hearts. May he grant peace, outraged by the barbarity of war,” the pope said.
“Today marks two months since the beginning of this war: Instead of stopping, the war has worsened. It is sad that in these days, which are the holiest and most solemn for all Christians, the deadly roar of weapons is heard rather than the sound of bells announcing the Resurrection; and it is sad that weapons are increasingly taking the place of words,” he continued.
“I renew my appeal for an Easter truce, a minimal and tangible sign of a desire for peace. The attack must be stopped, to respond to the suffering of the exhausted population; it must stop, in obedience to the words of the Risen Lord, who on Easter Day repeats to his disciples: ‘Peace be with you! (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19.21),” the pope said.
“I ask everyone to increase prayer for peace and to have the courage to say, to show that peace is possible,” he concluded. “Political leaders, please, listen to the voice of the people, who want peace, not an escalation of the conflict.”