In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina, also known as The Apostle of Divine Mercy, for her visions of Jesus; the merciful love of God revealed to the whole world. On this second Sunday of Easter, referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday, we take a moment to reflect upon our merciful God, and how we are called to reveal God’s mercy to the world that they, like Thomas, might come to believe.
I remember as a kid playing the game, “mercy.” In that game, one person is overpowered by the other and then cries out for mercy, at which time the other, more powerful person, stops the pain and renders the mercy requested. Did anyone play that game growing up? I think that game is a helpful starting place for understanding Divine Mercy.
In the Creed we say, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…” The Catechism teaches that God’s Fatherly might, his omnipotence, is revealed, “by the way he takes care of our needs…by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.”(270) God chooses to reveal his power neither in punishment nor even in justice, but rather in mercy. Isn’t that something? True power, Godly power, is revealed not with a flex, nor with a press, but with a release. That’s what we celebrate today, and that’s what we are called to do and to be for others.
The church offers up for us (you may remember studying them in Catechism class) the Works of Mercy. The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are the works we do with our corpus, or our body—our hands and feet. They are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are more of the mind, heart, and mouth. They are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.
All throughout Jesus’ ministry he gave us examples of both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I think in just his journey to the cross he performed every one of the Spiritual works of Mercy, and in today’s reading he counseled the doubtful Thomas. Jesus never wags the finger, never raises the judgemental eyebrow, he just meets the ignorant, sinful, doubtful, and diseased right where they are; he loves them, and gives them just the right thing that they need to believe. That’s Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy is never about what we are owed, what we deserve, or what we’ve earned—in fact, it isn’t about us at all. Divine mercy is called Divine Mercy because it’s about God. It’s about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s desire for our friendship, God’s desire for our joy and fulfillment that can only be found in him, and about his desire that we experience his love and come to believe and find peace and rest in him.
Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, I will not believe.” Jesus said, “Put your finger here, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” No shaming, no admonishment, no insults, no pressure—only love. Our world is so full of violence and suffering and pain. We need mercy. So many of us are under tremendous pressure and are crying out for mercy. Ask God to give you mercy, and have eyes open to see how it is revealed—and believe.
And be an instrument of God’s mercy to others. We all need a break. We have so many opportunities to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, comfort the afflicted, and pray for others. That’s Divine. Be God’s partner so that all might come to believe.