Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
2nd Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 5: 12 – 16; Ps 118; Revelation 1: 9 – 11a, 12- 13, 17 – 19; John 20: 19 – 31
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and my hand into His side, I will not believe.” In that very strong, demanding request, we have Thomas’ famous words but, one thing that we do lack is the knowledge of how he said it. He was not present with the others when Jesus came and now a week later, the disciples with excitement, awe, joy face him with “We have seen the Lord!” – and he had not!
When he made known his demand, did his voice express disbelief, did it show self-pity, jealousy, was it whining? We will never know. However, Jesus did respond, “Thomas, put your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving but believe.”
I always felt that Jesus responded with a kind of direct, tough-love…until I heard someone read this Gospel and in speaking Jesus’ words the person gave me an altogether different sense. I was visiting our Trappistine Sisters in Wrentham, Mass. and Mother Maureen read this Gospel at the end of Sunday vigils. It was her voice, the voice of a woman, a voice expressing a gentleness in Jesus’ invitation. “Thomas, come, put your finger here…believe.”
Every time I hear or read this Gospel I recall her voice – it resonated with mercy then and it still does now for me. And I’ve come to believe that is how Jesus spoke to this man who had to see for himself that Christ was risen. He was not satisfied with second-hand information from excited men even those he knew so well – in that Thomas presents an important lesson in our own journey of faith.
We’ve all had someone who taught us about Jesus, about our Catholic beliefs and through this we come to know ABOUT Him. It can happen that I can know all about Him but without any kind of a personal relationship, without a deeply personal faith in Him. Such a life filled with religious knowledge is, in reality, superficial – it does not touch the heart, it does not bring about a joyful conviction, a sincere desire for repentance, for living my Catholic Faith to the full in communion with the Lord.
You might say that in his passionate plea, Thomas prayed – he sought the Lord Jesus, His presence, His person. And the Lord who hears the cry of the poor, mercifully, lovingly made Himself present. The reply surely exceeded his hopes and Thomas would never forget the merciful presence of the Risen Lord to him – a presence of surpassing mercy. “Come, touch, feel…come, believe, Thomas! The mercy of God flowed over and through him so that he cried out, “My Lord and my God!” The mercy of or God is the power of divine love – never mere pity or sympathy.
The mercy of God is revealed absolutely in Jesus – I find it more than interesting that the Hebrew word for mercy is RACHAMIM – which comes from a word RACHAM that means “the womb” – when these people coined a word to denote God‘s love, it appears that they could find no word more expressive this – that the mercy of God comes forth from God’s depths as a child comes from the mother’s womb – I believe we can say that such mercy flows from the maternal depths of our God.
Again and again in the Gospels, we hear of the Lord’s mercy – the woman taken in adultery ready to be stoned to death – Jesus wrote on the ground and when the accusers had departed one by one, said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
To a criminal crucified beside Him who asked only to be remembered, received unexpected, extravagant mercy, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Today, here, you and I see, hear, receive this same mercy: “This is My Body…take and eat.” This is the cup of My Blood…take and drink.” Our Lord exquisitely embraces each of us in His mercy – the Lord reveals Himself to you, to me as He did to Thomas – in an unmistakable way that leaves no doubt…none at all. We are gifted with mercy upon mercy in a most personal way.
Fr. Regis Tompkins, one of our beloved deceased, was confessor to a number of us. Something he said in confession to me, as he did to other monks, I presume, was, “God sees the desires of your heart.” Fr. Regis’ beautiful words proclaim that God knows our sins yet sees beyond all sin, all imperfection to what is good in us, especially our desire for Him. His sight is always a sight of mercy – mercy that brings peace.
In reflecting on Fr. Regis’s words, it brought this to my mind – surely my prayer, your prayer should be, “Lord grant me to see the desires of Your heart for me because it means Life for me. Lord, I need to see!”