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Homily: Divine Mercy Sunday 2021

Second Sunday of Easter -Divine Mercy Sunday          

Acts 4:32-3; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

Every year on this second Sunday of Easter, the apostle Thomas takes center stage. We have come to know him as “doubting Thomas” as though he were an exception to the others. The rest of the Apostles, however, did not believe in the Resurrection instantly and were very much like him. This episode between the Risen Christ and Thomas in the upper room helps us to see what Easter faith is like. We can reflect about the doubts of Thomas because some of them may be our own as well.

Thomas’ major doubt was hesitation about the truth of the Resurrection because he could not see the Risen Lord. He represents the transition we all have to make from looking for a visual experience of Christ with our eyes to experiencing the invisible, spiritual presence of Christ in sign and sacrament.  Although we cannot see the Lord, He is here. He is with us in the sacraments of the Church, in the community of believers, and in the life of the Church. The Easter Candle symbolizes His presence for us. Christ is not the candle of course, but it reminds us that He is among us. Even though we cannot see Him with our eyes, we can reach Him through faith. This is the beauty and majesty of our Easter faith.

The Gospel does not tell us if Thomas ever did put his hand in Jesus’ wound, but that doesn’t matter. Either way, he and the other Apostles received all Jesus had to give from his pierced heart: the gift of divine mercy that we celebrate today. At the end of the Easter Octave, we are called to reflect on how divine mercy sums up the whole mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Notice how Jesus immediately greets the Apostles on that first Easter with peace and shares his bountiful mercy – giving them his own power of forgiveness. It is the deepest truth God has shared about himself: he is mercy, and he loves us even when we do not deserve it.

This is tremendously freeing. It frees us from worrying that we are not good enough to earn his love, from distancing ourselves from him out of shame for our sins and defects – as if we could ever hide them from him! Above all, it sets us free from the great sin of despair, of thinking that we’re too far gone for God to save us. How could a human creature’s mistakes outweigh the forgiveness of the infinite Creator?

When our Lord appeared to Sister Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, he instructed her to paint what is now the famous image of himself with two rays coming from his heart, red and white for the blood and water that flowed from his side on the cross, with the inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you.” The water stands for the washing away of our sins in baptism and reconciliation, the blood for the new life that we receive in the Eucharist. As our second reading tells us, it’s Jesus, the one who came through water and blood, who has conquered the world. God’s mercy not only cleanses us from our past, but it also gives us a way forward. When we allow it into our hearts, it manifests in our works of mercy for others. The peace and mercy Jesus gives to the Apostles comes with a command to go and share it: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  These men who had been hiding in a locked room then became such powerful witnesses to the Resurrection that they established a community unequaled in solidarity and generosity.

Lastly, I invite you to consider yourself in another role today, the role as intentional disciples we are all called to play.  I want you to think about Jesus in this story.  And I want you to imagine yourself doing what Jesus did for Thomas?  What exactly did he do? He helped someone believe who was having trouble doing so.  He provided a kind of “evidence” to him, helped him embrace things he was having trouble embracing. Put simply --- Jesus helped bring Thomas to faith, rather than push him away.

What evidence do we give as individuals and as a community?  Does the way we live our lives draw people toward a life of faith or make them indifferent to it?  Does the way we live our lives give others a clear picture of who we are --- what we value the most, what kind of world we’re trying to bring about, what defines us as a people?   And maybe more importantly, do our lives help others see who God is --- see his love and compassion, his kindness and mercy?  Or are there countless Thomases standing before us waiting for us to show them some evidence, waiting for us to give them reasons to believe --- while in reality, we are only able to offer them little or even drive them further away.

Thank God, we have the Church that is entrusted with helping us flesh out the implications and consequences of our beliefs --- helping us put into practice the faith we hold dear. So, today, let us leave this place not thinking about how others are not reflecting the true spirit of the Gospel message, the true spirit of Jesus. Rather, let us leave this holy place reflecting on the ways each one of us fails to do what Jesus did for Thomas, the ways each of us fails to give others a reason to believe. People are searching.  Let us help them find what they are looking for. Jesus, I trust in you!

 

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