Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 5:12-16; Revelations 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
Today we encounter two mysteries: the mystery of human doubt and the mystery of Divine Mercy. This second week of Easter allows us to continue entering into the mystery of God’s loving-kindness and the gift of life we have received in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The experience of Thomas proves that the gift of new life is freely offered, even if we don’t understand it. Having read the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we should not be surprised by Thomas’ absence from the Upper Room on Easter night. We all remember how Thomas said, “Let us go too, even if it means that we may die with him” (Jn. 11:16), only to abandon his master to His fate. Overwhelmed by guilt and shame, he could not bear to be n the company of the other disciples, even after they sought him out.
After they received the breath of the Spirit from the Lord, the disciples sought out Thomas to proclaim the Good News of the resurrection to him. Feeling totally cut off from the community of faith, he was not able to accept their announcement. He thought what they said was total nonsense. Heartbroken and dejected, Thomas pondered the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Like sheep, we have done astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the sins of us all have fallen upon him” (Is. 53:6). He was filled with shame when he thought how Jesus accepted the brutal scourging while he took to his heels and hid. A black cloud settled upon him as he considered how the Master was nailed to the cross while he was nowhere to be found. He sobbed at the thought of the spear piercing Jesus side. News of the resurrection was too unbelievable. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” When we feel shame, we must be grateful: it means that we do not accept evil, and this is good. Shame is a secret invitation from the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil.
Because he could no longer bear his grief alone, Thomas came to his senses and returned to the fellowship of the apostles. He hoped Christ’s wounds could heal his fractured heart. Perhaps the belief of his brothers could serve as his anchor for the soul. Hardly had he knocked on the door and the apostles welcomed him in with open arms. Knowing themselves to be forgiven, they extended forgiveness and unconditional love to him. When Thomas returned, the community was again made whole. Among themselves, there was joy because a brother who was lost had been found. It was in the midst of this community that the Risen Lord made his presence known and again spoke words of peace.
It is important to recall that when the disciples came together they were still fearful. In the midst of this fragile community, the Lord whom the heavens cannot contain (CF.1 Kings 8:27), made his presence known. Mercy desires to heal the wounded heart. Because Jesus had willingly suffered for them, the disciples were able to turn their gaze to Christ and receive his offer of mercy and peace. The Cross of Christ testifies that love is stronger than death and sin. The Lord retained his wounds after he rose from the dead. He is a wounded God; He let himself be tortured because of his love for us. Because of His wounds, Jesus understands the brokenness of others. The wounds of Christ speak of the Father’s infinitely abundant mercy for the human race. The disciples see Christ’s wounds as inexhaustible founts of life, love, and forgiveness. The wounds of Christ have given the children of Adam and Eve everything: redemption, salvation, and sanctification. It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the Cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy. Saint Bernard wrote: “Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of [Christ’s] heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high”. (Sermon 61, 3-5)
Crouched in a dark corner of the upper room, Thomas feels isolated from the other disciples. Even though he rejoined the disciples in the upper room, he still feels alone and alienated. What the risen Lord does for Thomas’ isolation and doubt is exactly what He did for the other disciples’ fear. He offered him his peace. The peace that the Lord gives calms fear and brings the individual into communion with his body, the Church. When we are out of communion, we tend to forget that the Father sacrificed His Son for love of us. This forgetfulness puts us out of touch with the never-ending story of salvation. Having sought out the lost sheep, Jesus brought Thomas back in touch with the story.
St. John Paul II put it this way: “The Cross is the most profound bowing down God towards man … the Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of humanity’s earthly existence” (August 17, 2002). Having once again entered the locked upper room, Christ does not wait for Thomas to speak. Rather, Jesus fulfills his unspoken demand. “Here are my hands, put your finger in the holes left by the nails. Here is my side, put your hand into the wound left by the spear.”
The wound on the side of Jesus reminds us of the water and blood that flowed out when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Water and Blood stand for the two sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist – both these sacraments make it possible for us to have a personal experience of Jesus. Seeing the Master’s wounds, Thomas was filled with a desire to live in communion with Jesus. Likewise, Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them so as to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of his merciful love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular, that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. Not only are we to experience God’s mercy but we have also received the mandate that God’s mercy be shared with others through our actions because people come to believe in the Risen Christ through their experience of the believing community.