Reflection for Sunday – April 3, 2016
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 2-0: 19-31
Preacher: Sister Karen Dietz, SSJ
Do you think Thomas was at all bothered by the fact that he did not believe his brothers and sisters who were visited by the risen Jesus? He laid out his expectations pretty strongly, saying that in order for him to believe he would have to put his hands into the wounds of Jesus. And that is just what Jesus offered him when the two finally met. It is not clear if Thomas did put his fingers into the wounds, or if he recognized Jesus by his presence alone. What is clear is that Thomas’ response was indeed one of faith and awe. Not only did he recognize the Jesus he had followed and listened to and prayed with for so long, but he also saw Jesus for the Messiah he was as he exclaimed “My Lord and My God.”
Often, homilists and teachers focus on the next words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” I prefer to focus on the words of Jesus that accompanied his appearance: “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.” Jesus was prepared to offer Thomas whatever he needed to come to faith. His one desire was that Thomas BELIEVE and in so doing, have fullness of life. I believe this is what Jesus desires for each of us as well. This is the message of the Easter mystery.
Our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles is all about the rapid growth of the Church. The disciples were working many signs and wonders in Jesus’ name, and people were hearing the Good News and coming to faith. And this faith was not something to be held close to the vest. Rather, there was such energy as conveyed in this reading, that new believers were compelled to bring the sick and the disturbed so that they too might be healed and come to faith. The gift of faith offered first by Jesus and then by the disciples, including Thomas, was a gift alive and contagious. What mattered most was that it be shared, not that some came to it more quickly or with fewer signs than others. The call to take the message of resurrection to others is also an essential part of the Easter message.
Today is the Sunday designated by Saint Pope John Paul II as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” We find ourselves in a year declared to be an Extraordinary Year of Jubilee; a Year of Mercy. In the Papal Bull announcing the year, Pope Francis writes:
We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace… Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
These descriptions of the mystery of mercy intersect with today’s readings; mercy reveals the mystery of the Holy Trinity, that divine relationship that inspires all human relationships; mercy, that reality deep in the heart of each of us to look on all people with compassion and truth; mercy, the bridge that connects us to God and God to us, opening us to God’s love even in our humanity. The gift of faith that Jesus was trying to inspire in Thomas and all the disciples is a faith that connects us with God and with all creation in compassion and truth.
My Mom is currently visiting with my sister and her family out of town. She will be with them for about two months. Max is my 6-year-old nephew and he is an avid reader, quite advanced as he already is reading “chapter books” on his own. A few weeks ago my sister found him in his room before bath time rifling through his stacks of books – probably making a bit of a mess. When she asked him what he was looking for he told her that he was looking for a couple of his old books that had larger print so his grandma could read to him. Max innately understands what it means to extend mercy to another; he looked at my Mom with truth and compassion opening to love. In his desire and effort to be a child of mercy, he brought new life and deeper love and affection to my Mom and even to his parents (all puffed up with pride). His gesture draws them all into a fullness of life—a wholeness.
As the Octave of Easter draws to a close and move more deeply into the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, I am called to reflect on those mysteries essential to our faith. I have been a Catholic Christian my whole life, and yet the fact that these Feasts are celebrated annually must inform my spirituality and call me to something new. What is the deeper call for me at this time? What might it be for you? What is the link between this celebration of God’s Mercy and the celebration of the Easter mysteries for you? How can I, through mercy and love toward myself and others, become more open to the fullness of life offered to me by Jesus’ death and resurrection?