A Second Chance

April 7, 2024; John 20:19-31; Second Sunday of Easter

There are some people who will not give you a second chance. You might know them from your own experience. They could be those you worked with pleasantly for years, those you vacationed with, those you considered a good friends. But when you made a big mistake, when you were grossly selfish or indifferent, when you hurt them in a way that was without excuse, they were through with you. Even though you apologized and pleaded for forgiveness and a chance to try again, they made it very clear that their relationship with you was over.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus was not like that. When he appeared to his disciples on the night of the resurrection, he appeared to those people who had abandoned and denied him during his passion. And yet the first words he says to them are “Peace be with you.” We can make this good again, even though you have failed. I forgive you, and I send you out now to preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. When Thomas tells his fellow disciples he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he could take his finger and place it in Jesus’ wound, Jesus, appearing again, says to Thomas, “Come, put your finger here.” Despite failure, denial, and doubt, Jesus wants to keep a relationship with us. That is why he is always willing to give us another chance.

This means that no matter how utterly we have failed—through deceit, adultery, prejudice, or violence—no matter how many times we were unable to curb our selfishness, addiction, or habit of sin, Jesus is always willing to let us try again. The good news of today’s gospel is that God’s love is stronger than our weakness, more powerful than our sin. For reasons that we can never fully understand, God never tires of forgiving us, allowing us to begin again.

Therefore, the only challenge we face is the challenge of whether we will accept such unlimited love, such divine mercy. At times it may seem simpler just to wallow in our failures and insist that for me God’s forgiveness is impossible. That is our challenge. That is why Jesus says to us what he said to Thomas, “Do not remain unbelieving but believe.” Believe in my love.

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