DIVINE MERCY IN HUMAN ACTIONS
“Then He spoke to Thomas, ’Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give Me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.”
Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, “the Easter gift that the Church receives from the Risen Lord and offers to humanity” according to Pope John Paul The Great. This feast originates from the experiences of a Polish nun, Maria Faustina, who had several visions and visitations of Our Risen Lord. On one of those occasions, Our Lord Jesus Christ guided Sr. Maria to draw His image with white and red rays from His Sacred Heart with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You! She was to present this to the world as the picture of His Divine Mercy, which pours out from His heart for the sins of the whole world. Jesus specifically gave the following instructions: I want the image solemnly blessed on the First Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. Therefore, during the canonization of Maria Faustina on the Second Sunday after Easter of 2000, then Pope John Paul II promulgated this great feast for all Catholics and for every Christian who may choose to recognise the mercy of Christ in this way. The relevance and importance of this feast day is captured in these words of Jesus recorded in Maria’s Diary: “This feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of tender mercies. Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it … Let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the Day of Judgment” (420, 848). We are all invited to participate in this devotion at Three O’clock daily saying the Divine Mercy chaplet for our sins and the sins of the whole world.
The devotion to Divine Mercy is not and cannot be limited to individual devotions and prayers. St. Faustina records: “… there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it” (Diary 742). This is what it means to live the mercy of God practically – reaching out to others at all times, everywhere and anywhere. The word “Mercy” comes from the word “misericordia”, which is formed from two words “misereri” meaning “to pity”, and “cor” which translates as “heart” in English. The word mercy therefore means to “pity from the heart.” A broader understanding of this word could mean to be empathetic with someone, which invariably means pity translated into practical action. This is what we see the early Christians doing as we read from the First Reading (Acts 4: 32-35): The whole group of believers was united in heart and soul: no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common. They lived out a life of sharing everything they owned according to the needs of others. What is mercy except to understand the needs of one’s neighbours and respond to it generously?
In the Gospel, Jesus mysteriously appears to the disciples who were gathered in a locked room “for fear of the Jews.” In subsequent weeks we are going to be encountering Jesus’ appearances to His disciples. Concerning these appearances, Benedict XVI writes: His presence is entirely physical yet He is not bound by physical laws, by the laws of space and time (Jesus of Nazareth, 266). We shall encounter Him walk alongside the Emmaus disciples, ask for a piece of fish from the apostles, order them to cast out the net for a catch; and today, He invites Thomas to put his finger into His wounds. These wounds of Jesus are the marks of His mercy for us. In these wounds lay the mysteries of God’s love and Jesus’ unfathomable Divine Mercy. In God and in the wounds of Jesus, love and mercy converge. Truly indeed, sincere mercy is rooted in love, and true love is expressed through (works of) mercy. As He did to Thomas, Jesus continues to invite us to touch His wounds even today in the numerous wounds of the abandoned, displaced, poor and sick people in our world. He invites us to touch Him in the aged and the homebound; in the neglected and the lonely; in those who are in the care homes and in the hospitals. He invites us to deep our fingers into His wounds by attending to the needs of our neigbours: feeding the hungry, quenching thirsts; clothing the naked; visiting the imprisoned, and by forgiving “those who trespass against us.” Today, more than ever before, we are called to profess with Thomas: My Lord and my God; and sent out to be witnesses to the Risen Christ in our doubting the whole world.