2nd Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 4: 32 – 35; Ps 118; 1 John 5: 1 – 6; John 20: 19 – 31
St. John begins his First Letter with something very personal: “This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched – we speak of the word of life.” (1 John 1: 1) This remembrance is like some other passages in Sacred Scripture that speak of an encounter that is most sacred…never to be forgotten, always to be remembered, treasured and recounted for our own personal journey in faith.
In reflecting on today’s gospel for this homily, it was this passage from the Letter of John that came to my mind because of the word “touch” – “what our hands have touched.” It seems to me that the whole of today’s gospel can be summed up in the word “touch”.
The Risen Jesus appearing suddenly in the upper room to very fearful disciples touches them with the breath of His word and this touch is one of mercy for the church of all time – “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” If we acknowledge our sins and are desirous of God’s touch of merciful forgiveness, forgiveness is ours. If we do not see and choose not to acknowledge our sins and even believe we have no need of God’s merciful touch, then we choose to be held bound, it is as simple as that. God’s merciful touch is ever present, ever ready, truly passionate to bring us to wholeness to peace, to a right relationship with God, with self, with others and for those who are closed, our God waits with infinite patience – as the Psalm proclaims, “His mercy endures forever.”
Then there is Thomas, not present when Jesus appears and the gospel is silent about why. His strong response: “I’ll never believe it without probing the nail-prints in His hands, without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand in His side” – reminds me of a frustrated child who lost out on something.
A second time the Risen Jesus appears suddenly – again the doors were locked – and immediately addresses Thomas – “Take your finger and examine My hands. Put your hand into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” It is the merciful, compassionate Jesus who, not just invites, but commands Thomas to touch him so to believe, so to come out of his darkness into light.
Thomas is overwhelmed, his words are a spontaneous confession of heartfelt belief – “My Lord and my God – grace has touched him and by grace he responds to the touch of mercy.
Have you ever thought of yourself as touched by God? And I mean deeply touched and not just some passing feeling. Someone has said that God reveals the reality of His touch, His mercy in the Incarnation. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ took flesh of the Virgin Mary and became Man – we will profess this in the Creed – this mystery of our faith tells us clearly, infallibly that God desires to touch us deeply, to embrace us in mercy, in compassion, in love – Jesus did not become man for His sake – but for ours!
All through the Gospels, we hear recounted the touch of Jesus – people were touched by His presence…they were spellbound – people were touched by His word…no one has ever spoken as Jesus did – people were touched by His hand…children, the sick, the lepers. We hear of this not for nostalgia, or nice thoughts about the Lord – we listen because what Jesus did then, He does now.
Here and now, in this Mass, – we are touched by the Lord, all of us – by His Word, by this community of faith – and especially in the Most Holy Eucharist…what could be more sacred, more clear, more personal than our receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord – we are touched by infinite mercy and we, in turn, touch the Lord Himself – as Mary did, as Joseph did, as St. John did. We can honestly say, “I have touched God!”
If we feel the touch, that is a precious gift – if the touch is beyond our feelings, deeper than feelings, it is still a most precious gift of the Lord.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we are drawn here by that Mercy and we leave here touched by that same Divine Mercy. The Divine Mercy is not left here at the door – we take this gift of Life with us – to be lived, to be given, to be shared – if not, then, in reality, such Mercy is not treasured – it is discarded like an old shoe. Let this not be true of us… any of us!