Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In today’s first reading we see a joyful, open and vibrant community of apostles. In these early years of the Church, what did the Church look like to those who witnessed this new phenomenon? In our first reading we heard that “Awe came upon everyone”, the faithful enjoyed “favor with all the people” and “every day the Lord added to their number” (cf Acts 2,42-47).
The Gospel returns us to an earlier time, than that the Acts of the apostles records. Jesus’ disciples are gathered in secret, with the doors locked and their hearts full of fear. Thomas – one of the twelve – is not with them. Why? He wasn’t a coward. He was the one that urged the other apostles to go with Jesus to Bethany saying: “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11,16). Maybe Thomas lost his faith because of the large failure, shameful and horrible death that took place? Or perhaps his hopes, that had been placed in the Master, were shattered? He does not believe in the witness of the other apostles, although they had seen Jesus. We can sense that Thomas’ heart has grown bitter. It is the bitterness of a heart that has been disillusioned, which had already at one time believed, but was painfully disappointed. This bitterness blocks Thomas’ ability to believe.
Let us look at our own lives. Do we not carry some of this same bitterness, wounds, which keep us from believing and completely trusting in Jesus? Very often we believe, but with some reservations, with some conditions attached. Jesus, I believe that you are God, but my life is too complicated for you to be able to change it. Or: Jesus, I will trust in you, if you take care of this or resolve that issue, then I will truly know that you are alive.
We find a beautiful example in the life of St. Faustina. During one of her recorded visions Jesus says to her: “My daughter, if you wish, I will this instant create a new world, more beautiful than this one, and you will live there for the rest of your life” (Diary 587). Faustina replies immediately: “I don’t want any worlds. I want You, Jesus. I want to love you, with the same love that you have for me…” In other words, she does not ask for a sign. There is no sign that would be a greater proof of Jesus’ love than Jesus himself. And no good is a greater good than Jesus himself.
That takes place in the Gospel passage which we have just heard as well. Jesus comes to Thomas and heals his unbelief, we could say, not by some sign, but by the encounter with Jesus himself. But what can we do, as we can honestly admit, that we are not any better than Thomas – it is difficult for us to believe and to live a living hope. Much more often we are like those, about whom the apostle Peter in today’s second reading says, that “for a little while may have to suffer through various trials” (cf. 1 Pt 1,6). How can we be those, who are blessed, because they believe without seeing?
We do not have a way other than the way taken by Thomas. Faith brings us to an encounter with Jesus. We only need to realize that it is always Jesus who comes to us. It was not Thomas who came to Jesus, but Jesus who came to Thomas and called out to him. Let us look in our hearts and see if there is not at least the seed of faith there. If there is, we can be sure, that Jesus has visited us, since faith itself is grace, a gift. Our faith, even though it may be weak, is already a sign of our encounter with Jesus. Perhaps our soul did not recognize Him at first (as at first Mary Magdalene in the garden, nor the disciples on the road to Emmaus, did not recognize him). But if we have at least a little faith, the encounter has already occurred. That is good news, for which we must thank God.
This news is proclaimed by the original image of Divine Mercy which was painted according to the revelations given to St. Faustina and under her personal guidance, which is here for veneration in this Shrine. Jesus steps out of the darkness towards each one of us. He opens his Heart, His hands reveal the marks of his wounds. Is this not the Jesus that St. Thomas saw – coming into the darkness of Thomas’ unbelief and showing him his wounds saying “do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20, 27)? Let us look at the image, because it reveals the depths of God’s Mercy to us, which we celebrate this Sunday.
Why did Jesus ask Faustina to have this image of Divine Mercy painted? Because He knows, that we, like Thomas, need to see signs, so that it would be easier for us to believe. That is why from the very birth of the Church, He leaves signs that witness to his presence. The apostles find the sheets in the tomb that had wrapped Jesus body in death and to this day we have what is known now as the Shroud of Turin that witnesses the image of the body of Jesus. The Virgin Mary in Guadalupe leaves an image on Juan Diego’s tilma, about the same time she appears to shepherds here in Lithuania in Šiluva. One hundred years ago, she appeared to the children in Fatima and tens of thousands of people saw the miracle of the dancing sun. The apparitions of Jesus and Mary, as also the revelation and painting of this image of Divine Mercy, are signs witnessing God’s Love for us.
However, Jesus desires more than just to leave us signs that witness to Him. He remains with us himself through the Eucharist. In the first reading we saw the joy of the community of apostles gathering to break bread (cf. Acts 2, 42,46). In other words, gathering to celebrate the Eucharist. We are in a Shrine that is open for Eucharistic adoration 24 hours a day. But what is the Blessed Sacrament? It is at the same time a sign and Jesus himself, truly present, because the greatest sign that Jesus wants to give us, to heal our unbelief, is His Presence with us, with each of us.
What does “blessed are those who believe without seeing” mean, what blessing are they blessed with? It is the presence of Jesus himself. Those who believe without seeing are with Jesus, because no man is capable to give birth to faith in his heart by himself – one can only receive the gift of faith and this gift is placed in our hearts by God personally. That is why the apostle Peter praises God for his mercy to us: “who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith” (cf 1 Pt 1,5).
That is why, faith is a gift from God, our way is that of receiving this gift, that of responding very simply: “Jesus, I trust in You”. To trust in Jesus is to receive the gift of faith. Jesus, I know about the darkness of my heart, about all my doubts, but I trust in You, that even with the doors being locked, you will come in. Let us pray that through the intercession of St. Thomas and Mary, the mother of the apostles, the one whose faith did not waver, we will constantly grow in trusting in God’s Mercy, which is the fount of our faith. Amen.
The Shrine of Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy Sunday, 23 April 2017