I find it interesting that the Gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday is the story of Thomas and his need of proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead. When presented with the doubts of Thomas, Jesus didn’t act the way that many of us would. He didn’t belittle Thomas for his doubt nor did He lambast him for questioning fellow disciples. He didn’t ridicule Thomas for his slow developing belief nor did He make a spectacle by berating him. Jesus gave Thomas what he asked for and what he needed. What a merciful act that was. That same mercy is a gift given to us.
Jesus, Incarnate Son of the Father, came to earth so that we might be lifted up, just as He was. To be lifted up and to believe that the mercy of God is a gift meant for each of us, we have to believe that God has, does and will love us no matter what! God’s love doesn’t change but our response to that love does change.
This Lent, we concentrated on those places in our lives that have drifted away from the ways that Jesus has asked us to live. We have worked at purification and holiness and have had to do that in an unexpected way. Isolation and separation might have even unearthed some areas of doubt or anger at God or the situations that we must embrace. This Lent presented a new and different opportunity. So does this Easter Season. We are given this new way of contemplating the Easter Mystery — mercy, an unconditional gift from God.
Easter challenged our belief that we earn God’s forgiveness and love. It calls into question any practices that we believe change God’s love for us. If we allow it, it forces us to look at our own unworthiness and our own weakness and to see and experience the mercy of God. We don’t have a hard time believing that we are lovable when we are at our best, but in the midst of our most doubtful and broken times, we have our doubt. Could God love me when I do this, say this or act this way? Can He be merciful instead of getting revenge? Can God still love me and show mercy to me when I have not been faithful to God? The answer is always “Yes” but we are doubtful, just like Thomas.
Do not withhold yourself from the mercy of God. Don’t let your shame or doubt keep you from relying on God’s mercy. No matter how unfaithful you may have been, God is always faithful. When we pray, “Jesus, I trust in you” we are standing on the promise of God that His mercy is available and given to us unconditionally. We trust that God’s promise is being fulfilled in this very moment. We trust, even in the midst of our doubts and sins that God’s mercy continues to flow to us.
Mercy, this gift from God given to us without merit and out of sheer love, is exemplified for us in that story of doubt. Can we be as bold as Thomas? We have a tendency to talk nice with Jesus. We give Jesus the “I’m fine” that we give to others when they ask us how we are. The fruit of trusting in God’s mercy is an ability to love more deeply, set free from worry and self-condemnation. We can be better witnesses for Jesus when we are touched by God’s mercy. Will you, like Thomas, be bold?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.
Editor’s note: Bishop Robert J. Hermann is taking a break from writing the Sunday Scriptures column.