For the first time in 14 years, the UMSL spring break coincided with the ST. Ann break. So I was on a mini vacation Tues through Thurs. and a little out of the news circle. However, I do get an email called the “3 O’Clock Stir”, highlighting 6 stories which will appear in tomorrow’s Post Dispatch.
One of the stories this week was about a 14 year old whom has been doing a blog since he was ten on politics. In response to Mr. Trump’s tweeted question about the reporter who got too close for comfort: “What did she have in her hand? It could have been a knife, or something dangerous.” He responded with two words: “A Pen.” He was LAMBASTED on social media. “Nerd. Geek. Moron.” And those are just the printable words he was bombarded with. I, like many of you I hope, am just shaking my head in quasi disbelief. Can we go any lower? How did we get here? How did we get to a place where people’s comments and engagement in the world all become a source of attack and defense and not a source of a civil and reasoned discourse?
I think about that because I tried to put myself into the shoes of the disciples for the week we recount in the gospel today. Thomas misses the first appearance of the Resurrected Jesus. He is, at best, skeptical. The other disciples are enthusiastically committed to their experience of Jesus having been raised. You can almost hear the conversations: Don’t you trust us? Why would we lie to you about THIS? Did he grumble each morning – “I will never believe it until I see it! And, I just want the same proof you got – I want to see his hands and side.” Can you imagine how that scenario would play out on today’s social media/twitterverse?
Here is the important thing, though, and what perhaps I most needed to learn from this gospel THIS year. Thomas stayed CONNECTED to the community, and the community stayed connected to Thomas. Somehow, there was room there for his doubt, room there for his questionings. He did not need to leave the community. The believing disciples did not cast him out or marginalize him, or call him a ‘cafeteria apostle’ because of his struggle to believe. Rather, together they walked and prayed and reflected. Together they found a way to be of support and love to him. And because of that, he could be there among them when Jesus comes a week later.
It is my deepest hope for both our St. Ann community and the Newman Center community – that we know there is room for questions and struggles and doubt. I pray that we know there are ways for us to disagree and hold differing opinions, and yet still be bonded together as members of a family of faith. And that is the civility that I pray for our political discourse in the months leading up to the November elections.
In 2000, Pope John Paul called this Sunday in the Church’s year Divine Mercy Sunday. Based on the vision of Blessed Faustina of Poland, it strives to awaken us to the need for mercy in the church and the world. There is a chaplet that is prayed about this, a call to make use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and an invitation to let the divine mercy become ever more a part of our lives and our world. It hopes to awaken in us the remembrance that Jesus’ first words to the Apostles were of peace and not condemnation. How destructive that could have been if Jesus had played the ‘blame game’ or the ‘shame game’. Instead he builds a community around peace and reconciliation. And he states a truth. When you forgive people, they are set free. When you hold them bound, they are trapped.
So, today, and in all the days leading to the November elections, let mercy be the key word in your heart. When you are tempted to join the social media frenzy about anything – whether politics or life in general, say only the good things that people need to hear. Make it a challenge to re-write the front page stories from the vantage point of mercy. How would a merciful God tell this story?
“A Pen.” Who would have thought two words would unleash such a firestorm of craziness? The good news, there is an antidote – ONE word that can unleash a firestorm of goodness. Mercy.
Let us all be instruments of your mercy, Lord…