How long did the joy we wore on Easter Day last? Could it be that the grinding of daily life has reclaimed our heart and mind? The readings for the 2nd Sunday of Easter are purposely very down to earth, addressing accurately human weaknesses, sinful tendencies, and limitations. This could be the reason why St. John Paul II, established the formerly called Dominica in albis depositis (Sunday of the removed white garments) as “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
In the early centuries of the Church’s life, those baptized at the Easter Vigil wore a white garment for a whole week. Hence, we can easily imagine how, by week’s end, they were not as white as they were on Easter Day. Divine Mercy Sunday conveys the same concept of how easily the purity of souls that, with great enthusiasm, started a new life at Easter, may soon become soiled by human miseries and sins, thus, requiring a supernatural intervention to become pure again by the infinitude of God’s mercy.
Who better than St. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, could be an eloquent ambassador of God’s mercy? He invites us to bless God for he has given us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ. (1 Peter 1:3)
Healthy or sick, financially comfortable or struggling to make ends meet, serene or in turmoil, outgoing or shy, educated or with a simple GED, young or old, self-confident or hesitant, we are all called to live as if we were born anew, leaving our mistakes behind, and are expected to truly etch in the back of our minds that there is stashed away for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. (1 Peter 1:4)
From this day onward, it is up to us to transform our life capitalizing on our resurrection with Christ, i.e., on the share of the eternal inheritance that is meant for each one of us once we move past our errant ways.
However, since we heard these words from Scripture before; since we have celebrated “many Easters” already and things have not improved; they might have even worsened; we should consider again the extent of God’s mercy.
The mercy of God is visible to us in the twilight of that first Easter day as experienced by Jesus’ disciples and, by Thomas, in particular. We might still think of Thomas as being a sort of “unbelieving villain.” But he was closer to being a hero than any of us will ever be. He was certainly better than any of the others as they were so weak that they had to hide behind locked doors, frozen by fear.
Why so much fear? The Jews’ religious upper echelon had found a way to convince the Romans to exact on their leader crucifixion, the most horrific type of death, reserved for infamous criminals. Logically, they would have been next. We must, then, wonder why Thomas was not with them. Days before that embarrassing retreat, Thomas showed his courage by being the only one to say to the others who were afraid of setting foot around Jerusalem for fear of the Jews: “Let us also go and die with him [Jesus].” (John 11:16)
Of the eleven disciples left, Thomas was the only one out in the open, still among the “enemies,” dealing, doing things, interacting with them. Thomas had made in Jesus a very intense emotional investment. So, when that emotional investment seemed to crumble, and he found himself surrounded by thick darkness, he needed solid, tangible evidence to restore that emotional investment.
Invariably, God’s mercy breaks through our brokenness, darkness, scars and even paralyses, and it does that forceful “breaking in” in physical fashion because, once a person begins to crumble, the signs of brokenness are so out in the open that they are quite noticeable.
The same is true of the protective barriers that a person puts up all around. The Lord “attacks” the disciples’ brokenness and paralysis by the sound of his voice: “Peace be with you” and by sight: he shows them his own wounds. How comforting: the wounds of the Head sooth the wounds of the Body, all our wounds, all our brokenness!
Once the Lord touches us so physically by sound and sight, the reaction must be genuine rejoicing. We have “our rejoicing,” once in awhile, but it is usually short-lived because it is rarely the result of being touched by Christ beyond our weaknesses, sinful tendencies, and limitations.
Yet, some of us might be with Thomas at a slightly higher level with some courage left but our emotional investment crumbling. Hence, Thomas’ and ours is the legitimate request of those who acknowledge not being that strong; they need the sound of Jesus’ voice and the sight of his wounds to touch them.
As such, let this be the bottom line: whether we are daring like Thomas or plainly struck by paralysis like the others, on our own, we cannot survive the punishment of this heartless, godless world. In his infinite mercy, the Lord knows that we, by ourselves, relying on our human resources, cannot survive what the world reserves for loyal disciples of Christ.
We need to keep our gaze on the heavenly inheritance awaiting us thanks to a share in his resurrection. For this to happen we need to rely on what the Church since her origins relies on: the teachings of the apostles (God’s Word broken down into small, digestible pieces); life as a community of faith; the breaking of bread (Eucharist); and a constant life of prayer.
This is how our emotional investment in Christ Jesus is guaranteed to remain solid in living hope.