THE DOUBTING THOMAS, COMMUNITY LIFE AND THE DIVINE MERCY
????Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4, 13-15ab, 22-24 (R.v.1); 1 Pet 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
The three readings that we have in our Liturgy of today bring out the role of faith in the life of every Christian. The First Reading and the Gospel point out the influence of the Christian community in harnessing that faith.
In the First Reading, the early Christian community lived a common life that helped them to grow in this faith. Four things characterized their community spirit: They devoted themselves to
(a) the teaching of the Apostles Magisterium
(b) fellowship Christian community life and activities
(c) breaking of bread Holy Eucharist, and
(d) prayers (Acts 2:42).
Through a belonging to this community, people walk their way to salvation (see Acts 2: 47).
At a time, Thomas left this community after the death of Jesus. Indeed many of the disciples left but Jesus never left them. Remember the encounter he had with those ones on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and now the different appearances to the disciples. Thomas was not able to have the experience of this appearance because he was in the community. But for this second time, he was part of them and so shared in the experience. However, he needed more than the experience; he needed to touch Jesus. Remember the previous instances where people touched Jesus and got their healing or were saved (cf. Mark 5:27-29, 41-42). So, Thomas needed to touch Jesus to be healed of his faithlessness and annihilation after lapsing in faith and separating himself from the community.
Note that it was not Thomas that invited Jesus to come again neither did he request Jesus to allow him put his hands in his wounds. Jesus knew his need of that healing and reached out to give it to him. That is what we call Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy is the celebration of the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s heart towards those in need of it. It is an unmerited love. St. Paul noted that God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). A perfect celebration of this love therefore should be in the transmission of that same love to others, especially those who do not merit it.
Blessed John Paul II gave us an example of this transmission of that great love of Christ. In 1983, he went to the cell of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to assassinate him in 1981, and forgave him. Is there anyone who wronged you that you are yet to forgive? You can begin the celebration of this Mercy of God from there. Forgive him/her and you would be building a strong community of faith and love for Christ.
Do you remember what happened the first time God breathed on something, that was into the nostrils of the moulded dust? That action gave life to an inanimate object (cf. Gen 2:7). That life was soon lost through sin (cf. Gen 3). But through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and in order to restore man fully to the original status God made for him, he has to breath again into man and through that gave him the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life (see John 20:22), to assist them give life to others by forgiving their sins.
Notice that Jesus did not give the apostles the method of forgiving sin in that passage. So criticism against the sacramental confession is indeed unfounded. The only thing we are sure of is that it was only to the apostles that he gave that power (cf. John 20:19-22).
Note also that man never merited all these privileges. It is through an unmerited love that God did them. That is why we talk about Divine Mercy (read Rom 5:8; ), which the Church celebrates today. This Divine Mercy brings the brethren in Christ Jesus together to live a community life (cf. Acts 2:42-47). Nobody can be part of that community if he/she has not learnt to forgive.
I wish you a happy celebration of Divine Mercy today. May God shower you his merciful love and enable you also to show mercy to others. Amen. Peace be with you.