So central to our faith is the Festival of Easter that the Church invites us to consider all Easter week as one day of celebration, and to extend that through a seven week Easter season as if it were one week. Saint Paul reminds us that: “if Christ be not risen, then vain is your faith.” The power of the most heinous of sins has been reversed by Divine redemptive mercy; and so the Easter season is a time for rejoicing.
On one level, of course, we have every right to be sad as we witness the continuing unrest and tragic loss of life in places like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, or the never ending religious and ethnic confrontations throughout the world, or indeed the moral landscape of our own country. How depressing the news can often be as sin is exalted and virtue degraded.
Our Lord’s first disciples thought that their world was pretty bleak. All that they had lived for during the previous three years seemed abruptly snatched from them with the tragedy of Calvary. They were still in shock at Judas Iscariot’s betrayal, Our Lord’s treacherous arrest, his kangaroo trial, and his ignominious execution as a common criminal. All their dreams for the future came crashing down in just a few short days.
This was the backdrop for Our Lord’s appearance to ten of the Apostles in Jerusalem. Our Lord’s words on that first Easter night were: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” But as today’s gospel reminds us, Thomas wasn’t there, and what’s more, he refused to accept the testimony of his fellow apostles. Only after seeing and touching Jesus could Thomas proclaim: “My Lord and my God!”
We, too, can be severely tested in faith. We read Sacred Scripture, we listen to homilies, and we might even read Catholic books, newspapers and periodicals. But we don’t move to a more mature faith until we’re tested, often through human tragedy. So, in the midst of the great tragedies that engulf us in the Church and in the world, we need faith in God’s Divine Mercy.
But what is faith in Divine Mercy? Divine Mercy is God the Father, pouring out his saving, redeeming love through Jesus Christ, his Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Divine Mercy is God’s sacrifice of himself for our salvation. God wants to rescue us from the mystery of iniquity.
Today’s gospel describes not only the drama regarding Thomas’ struggle with belief, but also the Lord’s gift of Easter peace, which is nothing less than the forgiveness of sins. The Risen Lord entrusted to his disciples the authority and the mandate to be apostles of mercy to others: “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.” Faith leads to repentance; repentance leads to forgiveness; and forgiveness leads to new life. This is the gift of Divine Mercy.
Both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were canonised on this same day in 2014. They each guided the Church through difficult times and both taught us what it means to be a Roman Catholic. On this same day in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonised a little known Polish nun, Saint Faustina Kowalska, who became a special apostle of Divine Mercy in our own day. How much our world needs to hear that the mystery of evil is really overcome by the mystery of the Cross.
We too are called to be apostles of Divine Mercy through repentance, conversion and a life of virtue.
As we continue with the Mass, let us pray with Saint Faustina, not just today, but every day:
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.