2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) April 27th 2014
Acts 2:42-47; 1Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31
Drawing confidence from Christ’s glorious wounds
“He showed them His hands and side.”
I met Joseph several Saturday mornings sitting along a street in the New Manila area. Our routine was the same every time. He will motion to me to come close to him, he will then show me his terribly swollen and painful feet, then he will narrate once again his painful story of struggling with diabetes and not being able to afford his medication. I will then offer words of sympathy or some food or some prayer for him. There was a painful story behind his wounded feet and homelessness and he repeatedly narrated that story to gain the sympathy of others. And he always got my sympathy.
The Risen Christ shows His wounds today to all that He encountered upon His Resurrection because there is a story behind those wounds that we do not want to forget or ignore. It is the story that in Jesus Christ, God’s merciful love has triumphed over every human weakness and suffering, even death. He has overcome the hatred and envy of the Jewish leaders, His rejection by His own people, His unjust sentence to death, the ingratitude of many towards Him, His abandonment by His chosen disciples, the malice and slander of the Gentiles, the cruel suffering of His Passion and death and the silent emptiness of the grave. His wounds are a living testament that Jesus Christ has overcome all evil.
There is also a reason why He reminds us of this story. It is not to gain our sympathy for Him. We recall that on His way to Calvary, He did not seek human sympathy from the weeping women of Jerusalem when He said, “Do not weep for me but rather weep for yourselves and for your children.”(Lk 23:28) He does not remind us of the story behind His wounds to make us guilty for our sins. If He wanted to make someone experience guilt about their past actions, He would have shown His glorious wounds to the Chief priests and the scribes and bragged about being raised from the dead. Why then does He remind us of the story behind His wounds? More than any other reason, He desires to instill in us unshakable confidence in Him, in His words and actions.
If there is one thing that the disciples needed in today’s Gospel passage it is that confidence in Jesus Christ and His words and actions that has overcome all evil. They are so afraid of the Jews that they huddled behind locked doors. The Jews could do no more than killed the body (Cf. Mt 10:28). To move them to cease being afraid of the Jews, the Risen Christ stands in their midst, “showing them His hands and His sides.” By gazing at His wounds, the disciples are to have confidence in Jesus Christ over the power of all their adversaries, human or angelic.
Obviously weighed down by their own infidelity to Jesus in facing His Passion and death, the disciples also needed confidence in dealing with their own sins and failures in discipleship. After showing them His scars, Jesus grants them forgiveness for personal and communal sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Confidence in the Jesus’ words of forgiveness is the only way that they will find that peace that He has won for us all.
Thomas is not won over by the testimony of the other disciples that Christ had been raised and they had seen Him. Jesus presents His wounds to Thomas and invites him to touch His wounds so as to end his unbelief. Upon seeing those wounds, Thomas broke out in a statement of confidence rooted in faith in the Risen Christ, “My Lord and my God.” Gazing on Christ’s wounds with awe inspired this statement of confident surrender.
The Acts of the Apostles shows us what a community looks like when they have placed all their confidence in the Risen Lord Jesus. They are a community of prayer, one that had genuine care for others so much such that they “would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” Our ability to worship God, forgive those who offend us, live peacefully with others in community and share with others all that we have depends on how deep our confidence is in Christ Jesus and His words and actions.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday promoted by St. Faustina who had many visions of Jesus Christ in which Jesus spoke to her about spreading the message of trust in the infinite mercy of God. In the painting of Jesus inspired by this devotion, we find the Risen Christ pointing to the wound on His side while the wound radiated white and red rays. Jesus again shows the world His wounds to bring us to deep confidence that the compassionate love of God is so strong that there is no human misery, weakness or sinfulness that it cannot relieve if only we have unshakable confidence in Him.
God’s response today to all human suffering and pain is to show us the wounds of the God-Man Jesus Christ and to instill in us confidence in His merciful love that seeks to relieve all our misery. In this life too we will have our own wounds from our infirmities, from our sins and from the injustices that we experience. How easily we tell the stories behind our wounds to win the sympathy of others or to make others feel guilty for what we have experienced? If this is all we do to sooth the pain of our wounds, it becomes obvious that our entire confidence is not in Jesus Christ and His words and actions but in us or in other created things. But if we choose to identify with Jesus and unite our wounds to His own wounds, we allow His own merciful love to relieve our pains and triumph in us too.
This Divine Mercy Sunday, as we venerate the icon of Divine Mercy, we come face to face with the glorious wounds of our Savior. We also receive the healing and forgiveness that flows from these wounds when we confess our sins in the sacrament of confession. We experience the new life from these wounds when we receive Holy Communion. Jesus never tires showing us His wounds.
In each of those moments, Jesus says to us, “Look at my hands and sides.” May we never forget the story behind His wounds. And most importantly, may we never forget why He reminds us of this story and makes it present to us sacramentally. It is not to win our sympathy or to make us feel guilty but to instill in us unshakable confidence in Him.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!