Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy C
I suspect that more than a few of you know
that our friend, Fr. Justin,
his first trip home since coming over to the States.
And I was very touched
when he returned with a little gift for me:
this book, entitled, St. Thomas in India.
You may recall Fr. Justin sharing with us
that the Christians of India trace their faith
all the way back to the apostle Thomas—
the same one who figures so prominently
in this Sunday’s gospel reading.
The story goes that, after Pentecost,
when all of the apostles dispersed to spread the Good News,
St. Thomas traveled far—all the way to southern India—
where he made many converts and eventually died a martyr.
A lot of modern minds have generally assumed
that this is a stirring pious legend…but not actual history.
This book goes into incredible detail,
examining the oldest written records and archeological evidence.
That St. Thomas really did preach and die in India.
I haven’t yet read the whole book,
but I find the entire premise rather ironic:
that it was written to remove our doubts
about what became of “doubting” Thomas!
On that first Easter Sunday—and still a week later—
we find the disciples of Jesus locked up together out of fear.
St. John tells us that they’re afraid “of the Jews”:
afraid that the same authorities
who had seen to Jesus’ crucifixion just a couple of days before
would now be trying to eliminate his followers, too—
especially since his body had gone missing.
It’s a reasonable thing of which to be scared!
But I’d hazard to guess it wasn’t the only cause of their fear.
The apostles had heard reports, not only of an empty tomb,
but that Jesus had been seen out and about.
Now, Jesus had spoken about resurrection…but what did that mean?
You see, there was a common enough belief in ghosts at the time.
And the belief was that,
if someone’s ghost came back from the dead,
it was for one purpose—and one purpose only: to take revenge.
And given how the apostles had by-and-large abandoned Jesus—
and the way one had even denied him—
you can imagine what was going through their minds:
We’re in big trouble now!
Little wonder they were locked up in fear!
So now we find Jesus within those locked doors.
We’re told that the apostles can feel his breath.
He invites Thomas to touch his wounded hands and side.
In other accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection,
we find him eating with his disciples—just as he used to do.
None of this is particularly ghost-like behavior!
And most crucially, we find in Jesus not even a hint of revenge.
Quite the opposite, actually!
To those who’d feared vengeance,
he says, “Peace be with you!”
To those who were locked up in their guilt,
he shows unexpected mercy—
and even sends them to be agents
of this mercy and forgiveness to others.
At the heart of the message of Divine Mercy—
on which the Church focuses her attention this Sunday—
is replacing all our doubts, our fears, our guilt,
with complete trust in Jesus Christ.
When our Lord appeared
to the Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, in the 1930’s—
appearing much as he did to the apostles
during that first Easter octave—
he said to her, as she recorded in her diary:
“The graces of my mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only,
and that is—trust.
The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.
Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to me,
because I pour all the treasures of my graces into them.
I rejoice that they ask for much,
because it is my desire to give much, very much.
On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little,
when they narrow their hearts” (1578).
That truth is summed up in the signature
found at the bottom of every image of the Divine Mercy:
Jesus, I trust in you!
It’s only natural for us to want to see, to want to touch—
to have some tangible evidence, some visible proof,
of God and the things of God.
But despite the old cliché, seeing is not believing!
Even those like St. Thomas, like St. Faustina,
who had the great privilege of seeing the risen Lord,
still had to trust, still had to believe, still had to have faith!
I think today of Mother Angelica,
who died on Easter Sunday and whose funeral was Friday.
We all know her as the often feisty foundress of EWTN—
the largest religious media network in the world,
broadcasting in 144 countries to 230 million homes.
What we forget is that this cloistered nun,
knowing precious little about technology,
got her start with just $200
working out of a garage in rural Alabama.
“I’m not afraid to fail,” she used to say,
“[but] I’m scared to death of dying
and having the Lord say to me,
‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted more.'”
Many people’s observance of Divine Mercy Sunday
focuses on outward devotions—
a holy image, prescribed prayers, a sacred hour—
in order to make manifest their love for God.
But the message of Divine Mercy
is much more about God’s devotion to us:
the incredible lengths to which the Lord continues to go
to manifest his undying love for us.
When we know how much we’re loved,
it’s that much easier to trust.
This book goes to great pains in examining texts and artifacts
related to the mission of St. Thomas.
But the greatest evidence of the work of the apostle
is that there are Christians in India—
a thriving community, in fact,
which has very ancient roots, to be sure
but most importantly gives living witness to the faith today.
Let’s, you and I,
despite our doubts, despite our fears, despite our guilt,
put our complete trust in Jesus Christ and his Divine Mercy,
and be compelling evidence for others
that he is our Lord and God—
that he is our Lord and God—
indeed, risen from the dead.
Jesus, I trust in you!