Divine Mercy Sunday – 2nd Sunday of Easter
This is Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s mercy is a central theme of the Gospels, offered over and over by Jesus. Recent popes have placed a strong emphasis on God’s mercy. It is an evident focus for Pope Francis, perhaps best summarized by the very title of a 2016 book, which consisted of a set of interviews Francis had with a journalist: The Name of God is Mercy.
Francis starts with his personal experience of being offered mercy. It’s been said that God’s mercy is both the cornerstone of his faith and the central theme of his papacy.
Today’s Gospel presents us with the disciples gathered together, all except Thomas. The Risen Lord appeared and promised peace and he showed physical evidence of his crucifixion. As well, Jesus offers a reminder about forgiving the sins of others, in other words, offering the gift of mercy.
Thomas was absent. He would not believe his companions’ claims that they had seen the Lord. Thomas famously states, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” The incident gives Thomas the reputation for being a doubter. Which one of us would have a different reaction? Why are we so hard on Thomas? Aren’t most of us doubters?
There are many claims from people which cause me to look for proof. How often do I mutter either to myself or aloud, I’ll believe it when I see it? I don’t confine the rhetorical question to matters of faith, but even to claims about when someone will finish a certain task, the budget and timeline for a construction project, and so on.
It’s probably healthy to have a degree of doubt. If we have doubts about the veracity of construction or budget numbers, why wouldn’t we have doubts about something as significant as the resurrection!
Thomas needed proof for himself. The proof of the Crucifixion had to get repeated for him alone. Are any of us so different? I can read a thousand books about faith and the power of the resurrected Lord and believer’s encounters with the divine, but the impact of what others have experienced will not affect me until I have had my own personal encounter with
the Risen Lord. I’m not referring to Jesus entering a room and showing me his wounds. I’m referring to that experience of having an inner conversion, a shift or transformation in my life. It might be the experience of suddenly finding peace, even in a difficult situation.
For instance, the resurrected Lord is present when I go from being angry at a medical diagnosis to peacefully preparing for the health journey ahead. The resurrected Lord is in evidence when I have a change of heart about my feelings toward an enemy.
Thomas’ response to the evidence from Jesus was, “My Lord and my God!” It’s his version of the Easter Sunday exclamation Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord!” Where have we seen the Lord at work? What causes us to open our eyes in a new may, like Mary or Thomas?