We come to the first Sunday after Easter or Low Sunday. Low Sunday does not mean one is ‘low’ after the ‘high’ of Easter! It is rather the octave day of Easter, where it is believed the fullness of the Easter mystery, its grace is made present. Every liturgical season of the Church is associated with its own particular grace. It comes as gift. The great gift of Easter, as the gospel today reveals, is Peace. It is not without reason that this has now become Divine Mercy Sunday. This peace is made present through the overflowing Mercy of God. This is what Jesus promises the disciples before the Passion; having suffered, died and risen, he now bestows it on his disciples.
Today, I want to look particularly at Thomas. The evening of the first Sunday, the disciples are together but Thomas seems to have declared independence and gone his own way. It is actually a miracle that the rest of them were together. Over the last two days, they’ve been through possibly the most traumatic event in history. They all carried the guilt of betrayal within it. Now, add to it, they are huddled in, behind locked doors out of fear. This is no ordinary fear. They are in fear of their lives. Any one of these – trauma, the guilt, the fear – would usually be enough to cause a person to come apart, and bring the worst out of them, let alone all three. And into this place of fear, Christ comes and greets them with his peace. This is not a simple greeting. As it reaches them, they are filled with joy. Nothing of the situation has changed, but their hearts are no longer terrified; they are at rest. They are filled with joy. This is the peace of God; it comes, can come only as a gift. This experience of seeing the risen Jesus, causes them to go and find Thomas, even when he doesn’t want to be with them. And they report to him that they have seen the Lord.
Thomas, is always identified as the Twin in the gospels. There is an interesting tradition that Thomas was called so, because he looked like Jesus and he was called the ‘twin’ (of Jesus). But it is equally possible, perhaps more so, that he had a twin brother, and he was always identified as the twin of his brother. I’m not sure how those with a more popular sibling felt growing up. Where people always identified them as the sibling’s brother or sister? Thomas is someone without a name, without his own identity. And it is very interesting how Thomas responds. Unless he can touch the wounds of Jesus, he will not believe. It is almost as if he has to have one up on the rest of the disciples. ‘You all saw Jesus? Well, I don’t want to just see him, I want to touch him.’ Is Thomas just being childish at this time? Or is there something more going on? If you always told your children that you love them but never held them, they will never be convinced of your love for them. And they will not have the confidence to face the world, because they have not experienced the security of your loving touch. What Thomas asks for is the deepest assurance of Jesus’ love for him. He wants to touch the wounds of Jesus.
Why the wounds? Because it is through his wounds, that Christ entered everything that could afflict you and me, he has borne it in his body. It is the pathway of the salvation he won for us, but it is also the supreme evidence of his love. When you feel you are not worthy of love, that you are nothing, look at the Cross. Look at the wounds of Christ. They are there for you. The price Jesus paid for love of you.
Thomas does not say he is unable to believe because dead people do not rise from the dead or anything like that. He says, ‘I refuse to believe’. It is an act of the will. And the only way he will believe is if he touches – and is touched – by the wounds of Jesus. They prove Christ’s love for him. That in dying, Jesus his friend, his twin (?), did not abandon him but has come back for him. And the proof is that he bears the nail marks, which are the marks of his love for Thomas. This is the same for you and me. Belief in the fourth gospel is not a matter of intellectual comprehension. It is to do with a movement of the heart. There are possibly only a small fraction of people in the world, who do not believe in Christ because of an intellectual difficulty. Maybe they have not heard of him at all, heard of him but need more evidence. The usual reason is because their hearts have been hardened in different ways. Maybe they’ve been wounded in their experience of life: I can’t believe a good God will allow such things to happen, or, where was God when I went through this? It could equally be because of sin; we are comfortable in our sin, it is not something we want to give up. To meet God means to change one’s life and it might not be a pleasant prospect. It could be all of the above. Which is why one can listen to the best arguments from apologists but fail to be moved. The heart needs healing. And it can be healed only by touching, in some way, the very real love of Christ.
Whatever affliction you have gone through, Jesus can enter that place, come alongside you in that woundedness and be present to you. He has gone through it as well. It is in our wounds that we are vulnerable. It is also in our woundedness we harden ourselves. Where we turn away from God, finding our own ways of dealing with our pain. But to turn away from God is the essence of sin. By his wounds, Christ enters all of the pain and misery of humanity. He can come and be present in our place of fear, of pain, of hardness. And as he breathes his Spirit into that place of pain, you and I can be healed. Your sins can be forgiven, you can be made new. This is why today is Divine Mercy Sunday.
When Christ enters the room a week later, he shows his hands and his side to Thomas. The side opens up to the heart of Jesus, the crucible of the furnace of divine Love. It was on this heart that John rested his head at the Last Supper. Hearing his heart beating with love for him, he would know himself only as the disciple whom Jesus loved. That would be his identity. And as Jesus reveals this same heart, overflowing with his tender loving-kindness to Thomas, he is made whole. This is the promise and gift of this Sunday. Open your heart with its wounds to Jesus. Confess your sins. Receive the Eucharist. And be filled with Christ’s peace.