4/16/23 Homily: Divine Mercy
Updated: May 9
Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
In our gospel today, we hear Thomas’ reaction to the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. His reaction is quite curious. He’s neither amazed at the news; nor is he “matter-in-fact,” so to speak. He doesn’t rejoice with others who have seen the Lord, nor does he simply say something polite like, “that’s great,” while being unconvinced, internally.
Rather, Thomas is quite vehement in his rejection of Christ’s resurrection, to the point of hostility: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” This goes far beyond being skeptical. Thomas is actively disbelieving. What is going on?
It may help to consider his relationship to Jesus up to that point. Thomas had followed Jesus as an apostle for three years. He was among the chosen Twelve, a rank above the seventy, who had been sent out, two by two throughout Galilee. He cured the sick, casted out demons, raised the dead, and proclaimed the kingdom of God. He received the Eucharist from the hands of Jesus himself.
But on the very night that our Lord had made Thomas into a priest of the new Covenant, our Lord was seized abruptly, falsely condemned, tortured, killed, and buried so fast. The last action of Thomas in relation to our Lord was an act of betrayal. He had abandoned him, just like all the others.
Earlier, when Jesus spoke of returning to Bethany, Thomas was the one who had said, “Let us go with him to die there.” He talked a big game, but in the end, Thomas had fled like the rest. He betrayed the one he loved.
Now imagine his thoughts at news of Christ’s resurrection. Credible people were saying that Jesus rose from the dead. He can’t dismiss the news as utter fantasy. He can see how Christ’s appearance to them changed them. They saw Jesus in a new light, but his last sight of Jesus was as he was fleeing for his own life.
Thomas loved Jesus. But did Jesus love him anymore? We often hear of Thomas described as “Doubting Thomas,” but perhaps the doubt that Thomas felt wasn’t doubt in Christ’s resurrection, but rather doubt in himself.
A week had gone by after Jesus appeared to the other disciples without revealing himself to Thomas. Why would Jesus appear to the others, and not to me? Was my betrayal too great, that he doesn’t want to see me?
We get a hint of what Thomas felt the instant our Lord appeared to him. As we heard, Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
We’re not told whether or not Thomas actually did touch the sacred wounds. His reaction suggests that he didn’t need to. It shows that he longed to see Jesus again and he did. Whatever regret, anguish, brokenness, shame, or anything else that was there, was extinguished in the presence of the Lord who told him, “Peace be with you.”
Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter, known commonly as, “Divine Mercy Sunday.” On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we see how Christ’s mercy was offered to Thomas. God’s mercy came to him in the flesh. Christ’s real presence manifested his mercy.
The same is true today. When we behold the Eucharist—when we behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—we bathe in the real presence of Jesus: his body, blood, soul, and divinity.
And our reaction ought to be like Thomas’. At the sight of our Lord, our souls ought to cry out: My Lord and my God. Beholding Jesus ought to extinguish every doubt, regret, shame, confusion, and any other darkness; and Christ’s peace should wash over us and cleanse us.
And as his disciples, we are also called to incarnate God’s mercy for others. Our real presence—our being with others—is our way of showing them mercy, especially to those who have betrayed you or me. As Jesus did with Thomas, loving another person means being with them again, behind the locked doors of their heart, and sharing Christ’s message of peace.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us both receive God’s mercy in receiving the Eucharist; and share his grace and mercy with others by being with them. God bless you.