“Peace be with you” , Jesus speaks into the darkness of the room where the disciples were cowering away in fear. There are many of you this morning in your own homes, in your own ‘domestic churches’, who need to hear these same reassuring words as our Easter Octave ends.
The hope and joy we take as Christians from the Easter story allow us to live through these strange and abnormal Easter days, in spite of the pandemic and its variant strains. In many respects the Easter readings speak to a Church that is rooted in a room, in your room, in your home, from where you join us this Sunday morning. Thomas and his journey from doubt to faith frame today’s celebration. Nowhere is there a greater acclamation of faith made by any follower of Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”
We make that same profession as we call to mind our sins and the need that brings all of us together, virtually and spiritually, our need for His love and mercy on this Divine Mercy Sunday …
Easter allows us to walk in the shoes of biblical giants. They all have a part to play, a story to tell. Remember Simeon who came from nowhere and was cajoled to help carrying the cross. And Veronica with the towel at the right place, at the right time. A towel that would be imprinted for all eternity. And Mary Magdala with her colourful past, the first to meet and greet the Risen One. And then Thomas absent but eight days later present. His profession of faith is so strong, it obliterates any whiff of doubt.
Thomas has done the Church, all of us, a huge service. His doubts are reasonable and perfectly understandable. Thomas teaches us that we can never separate resurrection and the cross. Our wounds tell much more about us than our strengths. John’s gospel text of just twelve verses, which we hear on this Sunday every year, manages to book end the last eight days – the Octave of Easter. In fact, our gospel gives us the full octave literally!
And this Sunday has become known as Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter Sunday inspired by the vision of St. Faustyna. We may be familiar with the Divine Mercy image or chaplet with the simple refrain: “Jesus, I trust in You”. How many times perhaps we too have uttered those words in the past year, as we struggle to understand how a tiny, microscopic, airborne virus could trigger such a global health crisis: “Jesus, I trust in you”.
Mercy is the only thing that overcomes all fear and builds up trust. Back to Thomas, despite all the paintings that suggest he pokes or prods into the wounds of Jesus, I don’t believe he ever did. He didn’t have to, he met Mercy, when he met the Risen Lord. This is brought home to us clearly in the rays of Divine Mercy coming from the wounded heart of Jesus, as exemplified in the Divine Mercy image. As Pope Francis reminds us “the name of God is mercy”. Mercy that flows from the wounds of Jesus. The gospel assures us the historic wounds of Jesus are not erased in the resurrection, the wounds of the past are integrated into His glorious risen body.
Divine Mercy Sunday brings us upfront with an incredulous Thomas – with his story of not being present. Why wasn’t he there? Whatever the reason, he braved the outdoors while the others remained in hiding. He was a twin, but where was his other half? Maybe we find that twin as we look in the mirror and recognise ourselves in our struggle with unbelief, with doubt, with despair. Thomas’s other half is any of us who live with these struggles but allow the Risen Christ to touch us and heal our scepticism, to address our need for answers. If Jesus waited until Thomas was present, was there, He will wait for us too.
Divine Mercy Sunday is the culmination of our meeting the Risen Lord in our broken and wounded lives. Jesus points out to Thomas not only his wounded hands and side, but most importantly his wounded heart. This is the twenty-first year that this Sunday has come to be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy devotion this afternoon at 3pm, inspired by the vision of St. Faustyna has come of age.
The greatest blessing in today’s gospel is reserved for us who believe without having seen. The risen Lord is present with us through those around us, through His word and through the Eucharist. And while we hunger to receive the Eucharist in these highly restrictive pandemic days, let us not miss his voice speaking to us in His word and through the sacrifices and actions of those we love and those who have our best interest at heart. Faith always carries an element of uncertainty, a moment of doubt, let us allow the merciful Father to accompany us in those darkest moments. Some of the great saints shared such moments; be assured we are in good company. Right next to us we might find our twin St. Thomas, the Apostle of Divine Mercy.