Sunday, April 28, is the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Mass readings: Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31.
No need of ours is greater than God’s desire to show us mercy. This is a basis for our hope and a source of consolation, even in our greatest struggles. In today’s readings, we find mercy at every turn.
Often we think of works of mercy in terms of the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters. In Acts, the apostles, like Christ their teacher, were constantly serving the sick and the poor. Peter, who had been shown life-changing mercy by the Lord, became a font of mercy for others. The sick would be laid in his path because even his shadow could heal (Acts 5:15). Having been radically transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter had become a vessel of mercy for others.
The exiled John, given a revelation of the One who was dead but now lives forever, became a chosen instrument to pour out the mercy of truth for all generations to come. John had walked beside Christ during his ministry, witnessing the signs that revealed his glory. He who discovered himself as the beloved disciple would testify again and again to the fact that God is love and that we who are the children of God can place all our trust and hope in the God who first loved us.
In the Risen Christ’s appearance to his apostles found in today’s Gospel reading, yet another dimension of mercy is revealed. The whole group is fearful, behind locked doors and uncertain of the future. Jesus shows that mercy reaches out to those who are afraid. He brings them the message of peace and the calming gift of his presence. He doesn’t rebuke them for their fear, but remains with them in their darkness in order to bring them light.
In a special way, through Thomas, Christ shows a merciful gentleness toward all who suffer confusion and doubt. How many people are like Thomas in our world today? Many have witnessed so much suffering that it is hard for them to believe that new life is possible. Many have heard that Christ is risen, but they cannot see how this has changed the world or the hearts of those who claim to be believers. Whatever were the roots of Thomas’ doubt, Jesus showed exquisite mercy. He invited him to touch his wounds, to know that he is real, to begin to believe that death does not have the final word.
The mercy of our God shown to us in Jesus Christ, risen and ever present to us, is infinite. God did not remain at a distance from us; rather, he came among us and shared our joys and sorrows. He does this still. There is no form of suffering which does not move him, and there is no form of suffering which is greater than his love for us. Whether our need is material or physical, emotional or spiritual, the Lord sees and has compassion. As we are shown mercy by our tender and compassionate Father, may we learn to be merciful in return. Peter was so transformed by the forgiveness he received from Christ that even his shadow could heal. How much our world needs each of us to receive and to extend the infinite and life-giving mercy of our God.
Dominican Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.
She is assistant professor of theology at Aquinas College in Nashville and also serves through retreats, public speaking and writing.