April 28, 2019 — Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter; more recently in our Church’s history it has become known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Our Gospel reading from St. John is often referred to as the story of “Doubting Thomas” but the passage involves so much more than the encounter with skeptical apostle. It is rich with lessons of Christ’s mercy to all, including an encouraging word from our Lord especially for us, His modern-day disciples.
While Thomas traditionally takes all the bad rap for his doubts, we see that none of the Apostles were at their best when Christ first appears to them after His resurrection. The passage says that they were in hiding, cowering behind a locked door because they were afraid of what the Jews might do to them for their association with Jesus. They were paralyzed by fear and doubt.
But Jesus appeared right in their midst in spite of the lock on the door. Was it to rebuke them for their lack of faith? To chide them for abandoning Him when He needed them most? To call them out for being so wimpy? Quite the contrary.
He comes on a mission of mercy. He comes to offer them peace and the restoration of their relationship with Him. And even more, He commissions them to become ministers of His mercy, by giving them the authority to forgive sins. “Peace be with you,” He says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” At that moment Christ gives to all of us the supreme gift of mercy — the sacrament of Reconciliation. What a precious and powerful gift is this divine mercy.
This Sunday of mercy in this Easter season of mercy is a perfect time to reflect on how well we make use of the gift of Reconciliation. Do we really appreciate the healing power of this sacrament? The infusion of grace, the freeing power of knowing we are forgiven, the increase in self-knowledge, and intimacy with our Lord? Could we become better stewards of this gift by going to Confession more often and by encouraging our loved ones to do so as well?
Today is also an opportune time to examine how generously we offer the gift of mercy to those around us. When Thomas obstinately declared he would not believe in the risen Christ unless he could see for himself the mark of the nails in His hands and put his fingers into the nail marks and put his hands into His sides, our Lord does not become indignant. He offers mercy. Jesus graciously gives Thomas the very thing Thomas is asking for — a real and personal encounter with Him, the chance to literally touch His sacred wounds so as to heal Thomas from his doubts. When we are disbelieved or disrespected, do we respond as Jesus did, with humility and magnanimity and compassion, the very hallmarks of mercy?
Interestingly, we will find that the more deeply we embrace the gift of mercy through regular Confession, the greater will be our capacity to offer mercy to others because we will see ourselves as really truly are — forgiven sinners deeply loved by God. Let’s commit ourselves to becoming faithful disciples, stewards of Christ’s mercy 2,000 years after His Resurrection. We will be those very ones to whom Jesus gave a “shout out” during His encounter with Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” — in His merciful love.