Divine mercy, without a doubt
Posted: Thu, 08 Apr 2021 14:12
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB reflects on God's deep love for us, seen in the Gospel for 2nd Sunday of Easter (John 20: 19-31). Image: 'Doubting Thomas', Franciszek Smuglewicz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This Sunday, we are invited to share in unconditional love of God in 'Divine Mercy Sunday' and in the gospel, we are given an example of how deep that love is.
For some reason, Thomas, the apostle, is not 'locked down' with his friends when Jesus brought them his first simple message of 'Peace'. I like to think he was out shopping or checking in on the safety of other disciples in Jerusalem. He misses the words and actions of Jesus as he tells them, 'as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you: receive the Holy Spirit.'
Thomas cannot share the enthusiasm and energy of his friends when he eventually does return home and they tell him Jesus is alive, they have seen him, Jesus came in even though the doors were all locked. Thomas thinks this is adding insult to injury—it sounds like some absurd magic show. You can imagine what he might have said to them. 'You saw his body when it was taken down from the cross. You know he was not breathing. You know there was no blood left in his body, you know his heart had been pierced with the soldier's lance. You are all raving. It's getting to you. Get a grip on yourselves!'
We hear in our Gospel today that Thomas demanded proof: 'Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.' Thomas is the healthy sceptic that we all need in life; he is the realist who tempers our idealism.
Today marks that meeting between Thomas and Jesus; the Risen Lord again brings them 'peace'—something we need especially today. We look forward to a break from the regulations that have rightly been put into place to save lives. We look forward to the time when we can exchange our sign of peace again at mass. We look forward to a truce in the unending battle between politicians, the toxic media battles and peddling of crazy conspiracy theories. Pope Francis warns us of the need for this peace, especially in our use of social media; even good Christians can get caught up is spreading disunity and lies:
We should also recognize that destructive forms of fanaticism are at times found among religious believers, including Christians; they too "can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned".How can this contribute to the fraternity that our common Father asks of us?
Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti 46
Jesus wants to ease the distrust and pain that Thomas is experiencing and invites him to look at the scars and wounds for himself. Jesus wants him to truly believe and he does; without touching the Lord or placing his hands within the wounds, Thomas can exclaim, 'my Lord and my God.' Relying only on reason and logic and science alone had closed Thomas' mind to Jesus' resurrection. His independence, his pride, his wish to be master of his own destiny instead of allowing faith to be in harmony with reason, meant that he wasted a week: he shut Jesus out of his life for one week.
Today Jesus blessed each of us in praying with us, 'happy are they who have not seen and yet believe.' We see those resurrection moments in the amazing acts of love and sacrifice that this time of pandemic has brought us. We see that resurrection life in the schools that never closed, in teachers learning new techniques and children open to try new ways of learning and families offering unconditional support. In our work, play, family time and experience of being church, we had to learn to adapt. Like Thomas we were open to change, even total transformation in our lives.
In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has adopted us as his daughters and sons. We do well to reflect on our reading today,
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God.
1 John 5:1
It is most wonderful privilege to be part of that family of faith—in this community of faith, you will make a contribution that only YOU can make. Thomas had wasted a week. We do not want to waste a lifetime. If you have not yet met the risen Jesus properly, then you need to roll away the stone and meet him: allow faith to work in harmony with your reason and logic. Today is the call to trust, surrender, believe, receive.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, it is good to pause and reflect how that unconditional love that God has for us, gives us new life to move forward with true faith. Pope Francis reminds us:
Mercy in the light of Easter enables us to perceive it as a true form of awareness. This is important: mercy is a true form of awareness. We know that it is experienced through many forms. It is experienced through the senses, it is experienced through intuition, through reason and even other forms. Well, it can also be experienced in mercy, because mercy opens the door of the mind in order to better understand the mystery of God and of our personal existence. Mercy enables us to understand that violence, rancor, vengefulness have no meaning, and the first victim is whoever feels these sentiments, because he deprives himself of his own dignity.
Pope Francis, Regina Cæli, Divine Mercy Sunday 2017.
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB