I. Doubting Thomas
A. The Gospel just proclaimed depicts the image of the “doubting Thomas.” Absent when the Risen Lord appeared to the eleven, Thomas refused to believe that the Master was alive unless he put his hand in the wounded side of Christ.
B. A week later, the Risen Lord appears again – and this time St. Thomas is among the eleven. Jesus invites him to touch his wounds. Now Thomas sees, believes, and worships. St. Thomas went on to be a fearless apostle and witness to Christ’s redeeming love, an apostle and witness who gave his life for Christ. But as the original “doubting Thomas”, he is an apt symbol for the age in which we live. The culture in which we live –a culture that affects us all— doubts both the need for God’s mercy as well as the desire and ability of God to forgive us.
II. Contemporary Skepticism regarding God’s Mercy
A. First, we sometimes doubt we need God’s mercy. After all, many people today think that sin and guilt are largely passé. Right and wrong is what we say it is. If it’s legal, they say, it’s probably morally right. How right St. John Paul II was when he said that the disappearance of a sense of sin has led to a diminished sense of human dignity – for sin always attacks human dignity at its root. And the root of human dignity is the truth that we are made in God’s image and called to friendship with God and solidarity with our fellow human beings. Sin has brought about so much discord and unhappiness in our personal life and society: the denial of human rights and freedom, terrorism and violence, broken relationships, the breakdown of the family, loneliness and isolation, addictions of all kinds – these and so many other ills, personal and social, stem from all forms of sinfulness. So the key to accessing God’s mercy is acknowledging our sins and asking for the grace to be converted from them. Friends, we must not be deceived by the false mercy so readily available to us, the so-called mercy of those who would tell us that there is no right and wrong, that things we formerly thought were wrong are really not so bad after all. May we have the courage to call sin by its real name, to identify it clearly, to avoid rationalizing our sins, that is, making excuses for them, and to stop distracting ourselves with work or leisure activities designed to help us forget about sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy. Let us not doubt the existence of sin and our need for forgiveness.
B. There is another way we can sometimes doubt God’s mercy: we can doubt God’s willingness, his readiness, to forgive us or even the power of God to wipe away our sins. Sometimes, when we feel trapped by our sins and powerless to overcome them, we conclude that we are beyond hope, that God would never forgive us, that he has written us off as miserable sinners. Pope Francis reminds us, however, that the greatest proof of God’s power is his mercy, in which our sins are wiped away and we are reconciled to him and to one another. He appeals to you and me not to doubt God’s mercy but to believe in his compassion to accept it into our lives, and to share his compassionate love with those around us, especially the poor, the sick, the troubled, and the vulnerable.
III. Healing through the Wounds of Christ
A. On this Mercy Sunday, through the witness of St. Faustina Kowalska, Jesus invites us, as once He invited Thomas, to touch His wounds. He invites us to touch His pierced side from which flowed Blood and Water, the source of the Church’s sacraments, especially Baptism, the Eucharist and Penance. In a 1931 vision, St. Faustina saw two rays emanating from the heart of Jesus – one was red and the other was pale. “The two rays,” Jesus told her, “denote blood and water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of my tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.”
B. In place of the skepticism about the reality of sin and the power of God’s mercy, we should engrave on our hearts the words that were engraved on St. Faustina’s – “Jesus, I trust in you!” Thomas was no longer a doubting Thomas when he gazed upon the Risen Lord, the “the face of the Father’s Mercy, and exclaimed, “My Lord and My God.” On Mercy Sunday we should repeat St. Thomas’ words: “My Lord and my God! Jesus I trust in You!” As we look upon the Crucified Savior, we see the enormity of human sinfulness. As we linger in the presence of our Savior, we come to a see that we are gazing upon a love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death, an utterly undeserved love, a love that is always experienced by us as mercy. No matter what our condition; no matter how conflicted the world in which we live; we can know the Lord Jesus dead and risen and experience a genuine solidarity with his love in the Church’s sacramental life. We can both find mercy and bear witness to mercy in the world in which we live – heeding as we must message of our Savior delivered through St. Faustina: “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to mercy.”
IV. The ABC’s of Mercy
A. How do we embrace the message of Divine Mercy which we celebrate in this Sunday within the Octave of Easter? How do we allow the hope and reality of Mercy to enter into the very depth of our souls? Some have suggested the ABC’s of mercy:
Ask for Mercy.
Jesus chided the publican and others who prayed in a self-righteous way, who saw the speck in their neighbors’ eye but missed the plank in their own. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an excellent way to ask for Divine Mercy. Our days should include an examination of conscience and even a “midday check-up” of sins and faults with which we struggle. We should never let a day go by without acknowledging our sin, asking for forgiveness. And with what trust in divine mercy should we approach the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Mercy where in healing mercy of Christ is applied to the wounds of our existence!
Jesus makes this so clear in the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who show mercy, for mercy shall be theirs. In the Our Father we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we want to receive mercy from the Lord, then we must be women and men of mercy, who know how to forgive from our hearts, who know how to forgive even when it hurts! Jesus, whose mercy is like a great ocean, asks of us only a little pool of forgiveness, yet how often our capacity for mercy runs dry! And we must also show mercy, compassion, love and respect for the poor and needy, by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. If we are recipients of God’s mercy, so too we must be agents of his mercy!
Completely Trust in Jesus.
St. Faustina’s charism has enabled us to see afresh, in our times, the depth of Jesus’ love for each of us and for each person without exception. Uniting our prayers to those of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, our sweetness and our hope, let us say to Christ with St. Faustina – “I trust in you!” “I know in whom I trusted.”
May God bless us and keep us in His love.