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For Your Weekend: When God Shows Up for Everyone But You

Laura Phelps

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 20:1931

A young Catholic wife and mother used Instagram to document her husband's journey with brain cancer. Illness took him far too soon, leaving her with the daunting responsibility of raising four children while simultaneously picking up a million shattered pieces of the life she loved. The details were raw, and she didn’t whitewash the truth; there were days she could not breathe. But her faith never wavered. And I was riveted. 

After a break from social media, I found myself reaching for my phone with the specific intention of revisiting this woman’s story. I was feeling “weary on the journey” and needed a spiritual pick-me-up from someone who didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk. You know that verse in Ephesians that says, “having done everything, to hold your ground” (Ephesians 6:13)? This woman embodied that verse, and because I needed help holding my ground, I clicked on her profile and pulled up her account. I was totally unprepared for the news I was about to receive.

She was more than holding her ground. She was engaged to be married.

I want to say that my immediate response was to rejoice with her, but unfortunately, before I could pop the champagne, I needed some answers to pressing questions like, What? Who? When? And more importantly, How? Immediately, I scrolled through her posts until my eyes finally landed on an answer that didn’t go down so well. She prayed. Specifically, she prayed a 54-day rosary novena. Yup. That was it. She prayed, God showed up, and shazam! Big, impossible prayers answered. Isn’t God so good?

Forgive the sarcasm. I know it’s wrong, and I detest this about myself. It’s a hideous defense mechanism when the sin of envy doesn’t allow me to feel happy for someone because I feel hurt by God. You see, I have prayed the 54-day rosary novena for a special intention three times. I have shed enough tears to fill seven clay cisterns. And God has yet to show up. Staring at this beautiful woman, so deserving of joy, all I could think was He showed up for her. And right or wrong, that hurt.

I wonder if Thomas the apostle felt this way. 

Tomorrow’s gospel reading is action-packed with meaning and history. Beginning on the evening of Easter Sunday, with the disciples afraid, hiding behind locked doors, Jesus appears in their midst, greets them with “Peace be with you” (John 20:19), and proves it is indeed His risen body by showing His wounded hands and side. After He “sends them”—the original word “apostle” is derived from the Greek apóstolos, meaning “one who is sent”—He breathes on them, giving them the Holy Spirit and power to forgive sins. “This passage in John 20 is the foundational text for how we know that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance.”[1] See what I mean by action-packed? What a mind-boggling moment for these friends of Jesus. He didn’t show up and scold them for denying and abandoning Him in his darkest hour. He came in peace! He offered divine mercy! He gave them His authority! All of the disciples rejoiced!

Well, not all. Thomas wasn’t there.

I have spent a significant amount of time this week talking to Thomas. I first told him that I didn’t believe he doubted. Doubting means to waver. And make no mistake, Thomas wasn’t wavering. He was pretty bold and downright direct: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe [emphasis added]” (John 20:25). This was never about doubt. This was about faith. After getting that off my chest, I asked Thomas a few questions I couldn’t stop thinking about. 

How did you feel, Thomas, when you discovered that Jesus showed up for everyone but you? How did you feel when your friends announced, “We have seen the Lord”? Did you demand proof because you didn’t believe He was raised from the dead, or was there a part of you that was just so angry because you missed it? Be honest, Thomas. Did the fact that you were left out bother you? Because it would have bothered me. 

It does bother me, actually. A few years ago, I missed Christmas Eve Mass, thanks to the stomach flu. My husband bounded into the bedroom, sharing the beauty, sermon, music, and incense. I wanted to rejoice with him, but all I could think about was the hours I spent preparing for Christmas and how everyone except me enjoyed His presence on Christmas Eve. Why was I not there?

It was not an accident that Jesus showed up when Thomas wasn’t there. Jesus doesn’t do things by accident. It’s not like He walked through the locked doors, looked around, slapped His hand to His forehead, and sighed, Oh man, where’s Thomas? The fact that Jesus did not appear to Thomas for another eight days is no coincidence. Like when He waited “two days longer” before seeing His dying friend, Lazarus (John 11:6). Jesus doesn’t lose track of time. He uses it to generate faith. 

And that’s precisely what happened. 

After some time, Jesus appears to Thomas, showing him the wounds he demanded to see and touch, and says, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” In reply, Thomas answers, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27–28). “And nearly all conservative, New Testament scholars agree and claim it is the strongest biblical evidence that Jesus is God.”[2] Thomas might not have been present for the big reveal, but he sure did nail the climax. 

And what about you? Have you ever wanted so badly to see God’s hand move in your life, only to watch Him show up for everyone but you? Is His absence in your current situation tempting you to lose faith, causing you to make all kinds of demands? 

Unless I see you help my husband find a job, I will not believe!
Unless I see you do something about my daughter’s anxiety, I will not believe!
Unless I see you heal my child’s addiction, I will not believe!
Unless you restore my family, I will not believe!
Unless I get pregnant, find a spouse, and see an end to this present suffering…you get the picture. 

And it’s nothing to feel ashamed about. We have all made demands at one time or another, and if we are to learn anything from this gospel, let it be that questioning God is a part of the faith journey, and Jesus doesn’t leave us out. He sets us apart.

I might have found a new favorite saint in you, Thomas. And if you don’t mind, I'd like to continue our friendship. I plan on turning to you when I struggle to see God. I plan on looking to you for support when those around me announce, “I have seen Jesus” while I remain in the dark. When I am left out, all alone, or not included, I’ll totally hit you up, if that’s okay, because I know you know. But mostly, I will remember you every time I kneel before the sacrifice of our Lord at the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament at Mass. As you looked at the risen Lord, wounded and pierced, and saw God, I, too, will look at the Sacred Host and devoutly say: My Lord and my God! I want you to know, Thomas, that I won’t remember you as the one who doubted Jesus but rather as the one who believed Jesus was God. 

Because of you, I believe in what I have yet to see.

Food for thought or journaling…

What is your “unless I see” demand?

Saint Thomas, the apostle, in the times when we feel left out, remind us that we have been set apart. Amen.

[1] Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, “My Lord and my God!” One Peter Five (April 2022): https://onepeterfive.com/my-lord-and-my-god/
[2] Kermit Zarley, “Thomas Said to Christ, 'My Lord and My God.' He Meant 'God in Christ,' to which We Should Nod.” Patheos (November 2013): https://www.patheos.com/blogs/kermitzarleyblog/2013/11/thomas-said-to-christ-my-lord-and-my-god-he-meant-gods-in-christ-to-which-we-should-nod/

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