By Fr. DJ Garcia, CJM
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love is everlasting, so we declare in today’s psalm (Ps 118). And God’s love is made manifest in His mercy, and so we proclaim “His mercy endures forever”.
Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, as established and promulgated by St. John Paul II since the Second Sunday of Easter, year 2000. And as we celebrate God’s mercy, we reflect on the gift of Faith we received as handed on by the apostles. My dear friends, Faith is a gift from God. It is not something we get to possess (primarily) through our own efforts.
This gift of faith is manifestation of God’s mercy to us. Faith is the gift of God’s mercy. Faith is man’s response to God’s revelation of himself. Although we, say it is our response to God, notice that it begins with God’s revealing of Himself, (and so it is God’s initiative inviting us to a relationship with him, to know him more intimately) and that human response is still God’s grace and gift because no one comes to faith on his own. GOD has gifted us with this faith relationship, in and through the Risen Jesus., when we were baptized. This faith relationship, although divine in origin, has been handed down to us by those who have gone before us in faith. So we are part of that faith tradition.
Our faith is not constant, sometimes, our faith is strong and sometimes it is weak--- or anything in between. We mirror the apostles. Remember that the apostles were ordinary people chosen and invited by Jesus to be in intimate relationship with him and that their faith in Jesus grew and was shattered with the death of their Lord. And belief in the Risen Lord came in stages. Most probably, everyone was in disbelief when Mary Magdalene announced the empty tomb on Easter morning.
It took Jesus to appear to the apostles for them to believe in the Resurrection and to strengthen their faith. We know that the apostles, except for John, abandoned Jesus and Jesus’ appearance to them after his resurrection is an act of mercy…. Why? He did not appear to rebuke or condemn, or to get back at them for their betrayal and abandonment of him. But he appeared to allay their fears and reconcile with them, by offering his peace: his first words.. ”Peace be with you”, and he showed them his wounded hands and side.
The side where blood and water flow, to redeem us, and this redemption was an act of divine mercy. This blood and water would later symbolize the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, both of which again are acts of God’s mercy in saving us.
Going back to the gospel, not only did Jesus reconciled with them, but he commissioned them to be ambassadors of mercy by giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, this bestowal of the Holy Spirit is God’s gift of mercy.
Now to Thomas. He simply wanted to have a first-hand experience of the Risen Jesus which the disciples had a week earlier. His doubts, were probably part of dealing with reality, on getting back to normal after the worse has happened on Good Friday. Thomas prefers things that are clear and concrete; he’s the one who challenges Jesus’ lofty words about going on ahead of them, saying bluntly, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5).
Again it was an act of mercy for Jesus to accede to Thomas’ request to place his place his finger in hands and side of Jesus. Just like when he did a week earlier, that act was a gesture of peace and reconciliation. And Thomas’ confession of “My Lord and My God”, is more than a profession of faith in Jesus. It is perhaps a realization on his part, that after the resurrection, all of reality has changed and that he can no longer go back to, just as the other disciples, to who they were or what they did before. In other words, nothing will be ever the same again. The resurrection of Jesus has changed and will continue to change our realities.
How does this relate to us? More than a month of the enhanced community quarantine, we are all aching to go back to “normal”--- to go back and be able to resume our normal activities prior to the ECQ. We are wounded by this pandemic, economically and psychologically, and our faith is being challenged. We are perhaps like Thomases in varying degrees doubting. The Risen Lord continues to invite us to place our concerns in his wounded palms and side to find hope. Can we, like Thomas profess our faith in the Risen Lord, and open ourselves to the reality that the Risen Christ is recreating the world and our lives anew with this pandemic, and there is no going back to the old “normal”, that is the normal of the pre-lockdown days or pre-COVID 19 days. My dear friends, now more than ever, the Lord comes to encounter us to strengthen and sustain our faith amidst the darkness that we are all going through. Believe that Risen is Lord is making things new. We have not seen and we do not know what will come out this experience. God is mercy and only good can come out of His mercy. Believe and be blessed. In the meantime, we live out our faith and nourish it by devoting ourselves in reflecting Scripture, praying, spiritual communion and by being ambassadors of peace and mercy by sharing our possessions to those in need.