In the past this Sunday was known as Low Sunday. I suppose it was because it was perceived as having less lustre that Easter Sunday – change from ashes to celebration; that it was just the continuation of the celebration; we had got used to the alleluias and coloured flowers around the altar. Today, this Sunday has been re-named Mercy Sunday. The Gospel of John 20:19-31 gives us good reason for this title.
Later that eventful day after Mary Magdalen, Peter and John had found the stone at the en-trance to Jesus’ tomb displaced, the two disciples were involved in another drama. They were in a barred room with other terrified disciples. One could understand their fear after the brutal punishment meted out to Jesus, would they be rounded up next? Their fear was compounded by the absence of Jesus. I would think that each and all the group were plagued by deep guilt, arising out of their base desertion and rank betrayal of their closest and best friend, a very short time ago.
When Jesus suddenly appeared in that securely barred room how did he treat them? They must have wished that the earth would open under them and swallow them up. He loved them always; he had expressed his love for them, and he loved them still. Just as the Father loved him, so did he love them – always, warts and all. After their dastardly behavior to-wards him, he bestowed on them his peace. He did the absolutely unthinkable and showed them his credentials – wounds in his hands and side – triumphant trophies. Their guilt shackles dropped from them and they were set free – another resurrection! What a moment – the gift of unutterable joy, to hear, to know, that they were forgiven. I have always believed that forgiveness received or given is God’s greatest gift to us humans. What a relief and a release for those frightened and guilt-ridden disciples.
He repeated his peace-gift and then commissioned them. He sent them just as the Father had sent him. ‘I do always the things that please my Father.’ He made them his apostles.
His breathing on them was not just symbolic or a figure of speech; he gave them his Spirit and the power to forgive sins – the power as in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They had experienced something so wonderful – so awesome that they would yearn to share it with others. If only Judas had waited . . .
When Thomas was told of the wonderful happening, he, the sceptic, refused to believe. He had to see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and touch his wounded side. For this man seeing was believing. I think he lacked the enjoyment of a sense of wonder and surprise.
After an octave of days, the disciples, including Thomas, were gathered again in the same safe house and once again he greeted them with his beautiful peace-gift. Although Jesus rebuked Thomas for his unbelief, he indulged him by inviting him to see his wounded hands and experience the feel – the touch of the wound in his side.
O Happy Fault, Thomas, to receive such gracious treatment. What a precious gift in ex-change for your lack of belief. What generosity on Jesus’ part! I think they must have had a special bond, the two of them. This is what mercy is all about, special bond or not!
Thomas’ faith-response – ‘My Lord and my God’ earned not only a blessing for himself, but a blessing for us, his posterity – ‘Blessed those who have not seen and yet believe’.
‘My Lord and my God’ refers to Christ and was not simply an expression of Glory to God the Father; Lord and God are two Old Testament titles for God. (Second Council of Constantinople)
Jesus did many miracles in the presence of the disciples, but they are not recorded in the bible. These that are recorded were written so that Christians may continue to believe, or so as to draw non-Christians to belief in Christ as Son of God. We are not sure what verses 30, 31 meant in Greek. (A footnote taken from the American Bible).
Sr. Martine Pillay OP