Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
hearing the words of today’s gospel: “when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19) – we remember our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and other places around the world where Christians are persecuted today, where to gather to pray means to risk one’s life, where fear and locked doors are a part of everyday life. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we pray for them first, so that our Lord Jesus Christ would be in the midst of these persecuted communities, strengthening them as he did the first disciples, saying “Peace to you!” And showing his wounds that testify to the Resurrection.
The wounds of Jesus must help the apostles to understand that the suffering and resurrection, of which He had spoken to them, is not a metaphor but a reality. The disciples who had accompanied their Master from the beginning of his mission, after the events of Good Friday, fell into confusion faced with the brutality and absurdity of suffering. What kind of Savior is he, if he is destroyed? Suddenly the words and teachings which Jesus seemed incomprehensible. When confronted with suffering, we too often resort to similar interpretations: it is meaningless, an error or a misunderstanding. Our faith wavers. If God is merciful, how could He allow this? – This is the human response to suffering.
So now, Jesus, shows us his wounds, as he did to the disciples, to help us understand: The Cross is not a mistake in His teaching, the Cross is the key. It unlocks the fullness of God’s plan. If we throw this key away, if we refuse to accept it, the meaning of our life remains incomprehensible, because it always has the experience of suffering that we are unable to comprehend. Without seeing the transformed wounds in the body of the Risen Jesus, suffering always remains unjustifiably pointless. Perhaps Thomas was overwhelmed with this sense of futility when he said to the other apostles, “I will not believe.”
But after eight days he is in the room with the other apostles. The same force that moves Peter to run to the tomb, even though he thought that the testimony of the women seemed like nonsense (cf. Lk 24:11), that same force helps Thomas to remain with the other apostles in the upper room. That power is the grace of the Risen Christ, which is already at work in His Church.Doubting Thomas could be the patron of our times, especially of our young people. Although he is angry and even combative in the face of suffering, even though he declares his refusal to believe, he is at least not indifferent, he does not escape into empty pleasures in order to forget those things that seem beyond his understanding. Faced with something he cannot comprehend, he presents God with conditions, but in doing so does not abandon his conversation with God. If Christ, the Savior, has turned out to be so weak, then let him show me his wounds, let me touch them. But most importantly, he remains with the other apostles. Let us therefore ask Thomas’ intercession, especially for those of our brothers and sisters who have left the Church because of various scandals, including those related to the abuse of minors – the suffering that we are unable to explain and which shakes our faith.
But what offended Thomas the most, what hurt him so much that only touching the Master’s wounds can heal him? It was Thomas who said to the other apostles, “Let us go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). Why, then, did Jesus’ death sow the seed of unbelief in Thomas’ heart, even though he himself had recently been so determined to die together with Jesus? Thomas’ determination to go to Jerusalem was that of a comrade in arms, a fellow soldier, having a determination not so much to die as much as to die fighting. The question that Thomas is unable to answer is not the death of Jesus, but the way he died – the cross that Jesus took and carried meekly as the Lamb.
That is why Thomas was right when during the Last Supper he said to Jesus: “Master, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” (Jn 14: 5). Thomas really did not know neither the purpose – fulfilling the Father’s will, nor the way – that of the Cross. He did not understand that on Good Friday Jesus fought the good fight and fought it to the end. But he fought it the only way that it was possible to defeat the Enemy – by trusting in the Father’s love up to the very end.
What ultimately separated God and man was man’s doubt in God’s love. Adam doubted that God’s instruction was given out of pure love and had decided to act contrary to it. Therefore, what reconciled God with man was a perfect trust to the end. In the darkest hour, seemingly totally abandoned, while dying on the Cross, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit ” (Lk 23:46). In this way, He crushes Satan and takes away the victory he had achieved in the Garden of Eden.
Brothers and sisters, do you understand what a precious gift we have received here in Vilnius, through Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina? That gift is the same weapon that Jesus used on the cross to defeat Satan – unwavering trust in God’s love. When we look at this painting, painted according to Jesus’ instructions, we see the same Jesus who came to heal Thomas’ unbelief in the upper room: Thomas, look at my wounds and know the mystery of the Cross. I will give you peace, but not as the world gives it. The peace of the world is to deny the Cross and reject suffering. My peace is to accept the Cross and to completely trust in the Father’s mercy. I have restored the debt of trust, reconciled God to man, and therefore peace to you.
What a great mystery is this reconciliation. The wound of every sin we have committed was crucified in the body of Jesus, and He was forgiven us for every wound. At the moment when the nails pierced the hands of Jesus, He already knew that Thomas’ fingers would be placed there to heal his unbelief. Jesus meekly accepted the nails: Thomas, “Behold! I wrote your name in the palms of my hands (cf. Isaiah 49:16). Therefore, there is no sin now that is not forgiven to anyone who confesses it and is determined to repent. The accuser does not have anyone to accuse anymore, because the one who was injured has forgiven (cf. Rom 8: 33-34).
And Jesus gives this power of forgiveness — the power to reconcile — to the Church as the Father gave it to Him, to His Son. Saint Faustina writes in her Diary: “O Eternal Truth, Word Incarnate, […] I submit in everything to the will of my superiors and my confessor […] O my Jesus, it cannot be helped, but I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me. (Day 497). These are the words of the saint, who sees Christ and talks to Him, but goes to the priest to confess her sins, because she knows that he is entrusted with the power to forgive sins (cf. Jn 20:23).
Thomas stayed with the group of apostles and was rewarded for it. He saw Jesus’ wounds and believed not only in His resurrection – he believed in Jesus’ love. Those wounds opened the mystery of God’s mercy to him. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, let us direct our eyes to the wound in Jesus’ side, and together with St. Thomas the apostle, with Saint Faustina, with all those injured through the scandals of child abuse, with each person who every day carries their own cross, especially with the persecuted Christians around the world, say in the words of Saint Paul: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8: 35-39). Amen.
Archbishop Gintas Grušas
Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2019-04-28, Divine Mercy Shrine, Vilnius, Lithuania