Peace be with you. In the Catholic Church, today is called the Sunday of Divine Mercy. And Pope Francis has declared this the Year of Mercy. It has its roots in today’s reading from John 20:19-31.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
There is much to glean from this reading.
It’s in this story that we learn of Jesus visiting the disciples after his return from resurrection and Thomas’ disbelief until he sees for himself the marks of crucifixion on Jesus’ body. And Jesus’ blessing of those who have not seen but still have believed.
We also see earlier in the reading that Jesus had shown the disciples who were present (minus Thomas) his marks of crucifixion. Was it because they were incredulous when Jesus appeared through the locked door? If so, why did He pick Thomas to rebuke for his disbelief? Or was it because often in the retelling of Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection Jesus isn’t at first apparent to those who know him? If so, then when the veil of obscurity is lifted, when their eyes are opened, the disciples rejoiced.
This is also the scripture for the basis of reconciliation or confession through the priest, when Jesus says, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
But the part of this reading that jumps out at me is the line, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.“ We normally see this as Jesus sending the Apostles forth to build His Church. But is it not also calling forth all believers to go forth and carry Jesus’ cross? What was Jesus’ cross? Was it not the burden of love? The burden of loving those who seem to not love us? And the burden of doing good works — works of charity, like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, giving shelter to the dispossessed, healing the sick, comforting widows and orphans and the disabled, forgiving he or she who as wronged us, not judging the sinner, supporting prisoners, and welcoming the stranger.
When I hear someone ask, why does God allow (you name the calamity) – war, poverty, hate, injustice, inequality, bigotry, hunger, murder, neglect, abuse, and a thousand other horrible acts – I remember Jesus’ words above. God doesn’t allow them. He has sent us to act on them, cure them, end them. Jesus was the first to do so, and at His death and resurrection, at His reappearance before His disciples, He commanded them – and all of us – to do so, also.
The next time someone tells you they think that acts of charity should be left up to churches and institutions, remind him or her of Jesus’ words — that we are all that church. And remind them how Jesus greeted the disciples with the words, “Peace be with you.” Peace begins with love. It’s result is mercy.