SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY] 2022
Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 2-24
Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19
Let us be clear about the nature of this octave day of Easter, the Second Sunday of Easter, although more popularly known, since the time of St. John Paul’s pontificate, as Divine Mercy Sunday. Any Sunday in the lengthy Easter season could have been a celebration of divine mercy, but with poor liturgical advice, the Polish Pope placed its celebration, and the connected feast day of St. Faustina who was canonized in 2000, on the octave day of Easter. This Easter week was meant to be one continuous celebration, hence the suggestion that “on this day” be used throughout the week in the first preface of Easter. To the extent that the acknowledgment of Divine Mercy doesn’t change the focus of this entire week, i.e. celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to that extent it is not troublesome. However, to elevate what should be, and should remain, personal piety, to a degree which begins to water down our celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, to that extent it is liturgically problematic.
St. Faustina spoke often and passionately about the “unfathomable mercy of God,” portrayed in her vision as rays emanating from the hands of Jesus. St. Faustina would want us to follow the direction of the beautiful opening prayer (the Collect) for this octave: “God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast, kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose blood they have been redeemed.”
Our focus should be on the Resurrection, for it turns a band of itinerant preachers into what will be the beginning of a Church. Note that our passage from John’s gospel was intended to be the very end of the gospel (scholars generally feel chapter 21 was added at a later date), and “on the evening of that first day of the week” is meant to refer to the day Jesus rose from the dead. The apostles are frightened men hiding behind locked doors in an upper room. After wishing them “Peace,” and sending them on mission (“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”), Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.” It is the briefest account of the Pentecost event in the Scriptures, and yet it is what made all the difference in the world, for it turned cowering men into the Apostles described in the Acts of the Apostles who were capable of performing “many signs and wonders.” The Apostles wasted no time in following Jesus’ command to go out and preach the good news.
As important as the Resurrection was for the apostles, before John brings to a close his original gospel, he tells the story of Thomas who, not privy to the appearance described here, remains a little skeptical: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” There is so little wiggle-room in his statement that Thomas will bear the ascription “doubting Thomas” for eternity. But doubting is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, doubting can draw us deeper into those impenetrable mysteries that are part of our faith, as demonstrated by Thomas.
Thomas’ profound profession of faith, “My Lord and my God!”, might not have been so profound had Thomas not struggled with his doubts. His profession of faith was not dependent on his physical access to Jesus’ resurrected body. No, it is enough to see the Lord, and Thomas does not respond to Jesus’ invitation to touch Him. The future generations that read John’s gospel are assured that they are “blessed” even though they have not enjoyed the privilege of seeing the resurrected Lord.
These fifty days will serve as a substitute for seeing the Lord, for with our ears, rather than our eyes, we will hear recounted for us the numerous appearances of the resurrected Lord, and the intention of their proclamation is the same now as it was at the time of Jesus – to inspire a profound faith in Him. May we admire Thomas’ courage to doubt, to go against the grain of the other disciples, for doubting, for Thomas, was not a permanent condition. May these days of the entire Easter season lead us more intimately into the mysteries of our faith, including the resurrection. With ‘believing’ Thomas, may every Eucharist we celebrate strengthen our faith as we fall on our knees and say, “My Lord and my God!”