Homily April 16th, 2023

Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy) – Year A, B, C – Option 2

Year A: Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

Today marks the end of the octave of Easter, and each year, be it Year A, B, or C, we recall, not only the Apostle Saint Thomas in the Gospel according to John, but also God’s great mercy, and our need to have faith in it. Let’s consider first Thomas, and his faith, or lack thereof, and then the connection to Divine Mercy.

It’s easy to reduce Thomas just to his doubting, but in the few brief statements that Thomas makes before Christ’s passion, we see a man who is very down to earth, and calls things like he sees them.

For instance, in John’s Gospel, after Lazarus dies, the Apostles try to deter Jesus from heading back to Judea, since the Jews want to kill Him. Of course, Jesus decides to return, and Thomas says, “Let us also go to die with him” (11:16). Rather pessimistically, he foresees the consequences, but accepts them. Likewise, during the Last Supper, after Jesus tells the Apostles that He will prepare a place for them, and that they know the way, Thomas interjects: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (14:5). Thomas isn’t afraid to question and get straight to the point.

This leads us to today’s Gospel, one of the most well-known post-Resurrection appearances of Christ, and here we can meditate on two points. First, say what you will about Thomas’s doubting, but part of the beauty of his actions, his foresight and his blunt questioning, is that it shows that Thomas isn’t willing to accept any substitutions or to compromise; he wants a Savior with wounds. Either Jesus really rose from the dead, or He didn’t, and this is something Thomas needs to be absolutely certain of. That response gets to the heart of our faith. In the First letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul puts the dilemma this way: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain . . . [and] we are the most pitiable people of all” (1 Cor 15: 17-19). On this point, there is no room for negotiating or maybes. Thomas isn’t willing to compromise, because everything hinges on this point. We, too, need to ask ourselves about how firmly we hold to hope of the Resurrection.

The second point is much more subtle and easy to overlook: we can often pass over the fact when Jesus rose from the dead, His glorified body still bore the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. Given that Christ doesn’t have the markings of the scourging, or the wounds from the crown of thorns, we could infer that He didn’t have to display those wounds on His resurrected body. Yet, Saint Thomas Aquinas gives five reasons why it’s fitting for Christ to retain those wounds (cf. ST, III, q. 54, a. 4), of which we can mention just three: first, for Christ’s own glory. As Saint Bede says, He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Those wounds would otherwise be an embarrassment to us, a reminder of the worst crime humankind has ever committed; it’s been said that there’s only one man-made thing in heaven, and it’s the marks of the Passion on Christ’s body. However, because He freely chooses to wear them, they become a trophy, a battle scar. Also, He wears those wounds as an instrument, so “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us.” We can think of the passage from Isaiah (49:16): “See, on the palms of my hands I have written your name,” and He shows those palms to the Father, begging for mercy. Third, He bears those wounds so “that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped.” It is a constant reminder of His mercy for us. In short, “the wounds have been transformed from being a fruit of hatred, anger, or indifference . . . into being a witness of the depth of God’s love for each one of us. The wounds that once caused an excruciating and humiliating death are now the badges of the final victory over sin and death.”[1]

We could say that Christ’s wounds are an essential part of His glorified body, and that Thomas was right to insist on wanting to see them. The story is told that Saint Martin of Tours once seemed to have an apparition of Christ. The figure, clothed in royal attire, told the saint to worship him, but Martin hesitated. The figure questioned him, and Martin, realizing what was happening, remarked when Christ comes, He would openly show the wounds on His hands and feet. At that, the figure changed, and the devil was forced to reveal himself, vanishing and leaving a terrible stench. A Christ without wounds is no Christ whatsoever. For that reason, is it any wonder, then, that Jesus repeatedly told Saint Faustina: “When it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate My wounds” (Diary 1184, 1512)? “When it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate My wounds.” There we find the source of love, strength, joy, and faith.

This leads us to our second point, the consideration of Divine Mercy. Christ’s wounds aren’t meant to frighten us; they’re meant to recall His mercy and His love for us. This is the price He paid for us, and He wants us to be saved. As we said, “they are a reminder of how mercifully they have been helped.”

It’s worthwhile to consider how much God loves sinners that return to Him and how much He longs for them to return. Saint John Vianney was fond of saying that “it is not the sinner who returns to the Father to beg his forgiveness, but God who runs after the sinner and makes him return to Him. . . .  The good God is as prompt to grant us pardon when we ask it of Him as a mother is to snatch her child out of the fire.” Our Lord told Saint Faustina, “I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion.” Later, St. Faustina herself would write, “God will not deny His mercy to anyone. Heaven and earth may change, but God’s mercy will never be exhausted.”

We can ask ourselves: how often do we contemplate Christ’s wounds? Are we aware of God’s great mercy and love for us? How often do we approach the sacraments, where we receive Chris’s mercy?

Let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Cause of Our Joy, and Saint Thomas, for the grace to truly believe in the love the Risen Christ has for us, and to hide ourselves deep in His wounds.

[1] FAITH magazine, June 2017, 13.



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