The first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was instituted by Pope John Paul 2 and it is based on the private revelations of a Polish nun, St. Faustina. It is a feast that encourages us to open our own lives to divine mercy, a mercy expressed so beautifully by Isiah when he wrote to the unfaithful Israelites, ‘though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow, though they be red as crimson they shall be white as wool.’ It is a feast that challenges us to show mercy to those who have in any way offended us.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we celebrate the divine mercy offered to all of us. We proclaim the death of the Lord, a death offered to the Father in order to reconcile us to God, making us one with God. Jesus taught us through different parables that we are to show to others the mercy and forgiveness God has shown us.
This feast of Divine Mercy challenges us to look into all our relationships – family – fellow workers – neighbours – and admit our unwillingness to forgive, admit our grudges and the animosities we have toward others and ask for the generosity to show to these people the mercy God has shown to us.
The main character in today’s gospel is the doubting Thomas, who refused to believe his friends tale that they have seen the Lord. We can speculate why Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus came to them. Like the other disciples who scattered in fear when Jesus was arrested he may have remained in hiding, not willing to take the risk of being associated with the others for fear of reprisals by the Temple authorities. It is good to remember that before he was the doubting Thomas he was the frightened and the hurt Thomas. Thomas may have thought he had made a fool of himself by believing in Jesus, and he was not going to be that vulnerable to let his heart be broken again.
When he returned to the group and heard the other apostles joyful news that they had seen the Lord he scoffed at them. He had to see for himself, ‘unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into that mark and put my hand into his opened side’ there’s no way I’m buying into your story. In scoffing Thomas was protecting himself against further heartbreak by turning his back on Jesus and all that Jesus meant to him.
Jesus came and broke through Thomas’ protective stance by inviting him to touch his wounds and see he was not a ghost. Jesus showed mercy to Thomas by being patient with him. He knew what was in Thomas’ heart, he knew his caution about trusting in him again and so he waited him out, he offered him the chance to touch his wounds of love.
So often the Divine Mercy is shown to us in that same patience of Jesus showed to Thomas as he lets us work things through our issues with others and graces us to see our need to be merciful and forgiving to others as he has been to us.
This resurrection story was told to honor men and women, who down through the ages have suffer persecution and ridicule and death for believing in Jesus, Jesus the crucified, Jesus the Risen. We have not seen yet we believe and by God’s grace we walk by faith and not by sight.