By Father James Rodriguez
The world needs good news. While this has always been true, the general sense of conflict and gloom in our country needs a remedy. We rejoice today because that remedy has a name: Jesus Christ, the mercy of God made flesh.
In the first reading, St. Peter’s alacrity and underlying joy are the direct product of the divine mercy extended to him from the Risen Lord. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we see that St. Peter, no longer ashamed and afraid, is able to speak and act with renewed boldness and zealous clarity.
It is no wonder that one of his successors, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, writing recently on the scourge of abuse, poignantly says: “only obedience and love for Our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way.”
St. Peter learned this way of obedience and love firsthand with astonishing results. His very shadow was able to heal the sick! As the mysterious cloud of God’s presence guided the Israelites in the desert and overshadowed the Blessed Mother at the Annunciation, so too does it permeate the very person of St. Peter, and all others who would obey and love Jesus unto holiness of life. This is your destiny and mine, dear reader!
It is in this joyful presence that we sing the psalm response today, giving thanks to God for His everlasting love and inexhaustible mercy. It is sometimes tempting to ignore the psalm, thinking of it almost as a type of background music in between the readings, but Psalm 118 is so rich and triumphal that we would do well to read it often.
It is precisely the good news we need: “I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.”
In our age of outrage, these words present us a refreshing and life-giving salve; they remind us that God is trustworthy.
The power of this trust forms a link between our second reading and Gospel today. The poet Johnson Barnes refers to John as “the Patmos prisoner of love.”
Writing from exile on the Greek island, the beloved shares his revelation with us: his vision of “one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest. When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.”
As in his younger days, recounted in the Gospel, on that evening of the first day of the week, Jesus appears and calmingly adjures John and the others: “Do not be afraid. Peace be with you.”
At the Last Supper, John places his head on the breast of Jesus in fraternal intimacy. Now, as an old man, he sees with his own eyes once more the Lord who radically changed his life. Charging him to take up the pen and write again, Jesus reminds John to trust.
Perhaps nowhere in Scripture is this call to trust more memorable than in today’s Gospel, handed down to us by the same beloved disciple who took Mary into his home on the Friday we call Good. Mary, the unmatched model of trust in God, places her entire future in His hands and becomes the new Eve, the mother of all who would be spiritually alive in her Son.
Thomas is one of these, who insists on seeing Jesus with his own eyes and touching Him with his hands before believing. On the one hand, we can reduce this insistence to the natural desire for proof of such an incredible claim. On the other, however, we must not forget that Thomas, like the others, was in deep emotional pain. He missed Jesus. On top of his grief, he certainly felt guilt for having abandoned the Lord just days earlier. He wanted to touch his friend and brother again.
You and I have this. Every day, as the Mass is celebrated on altars throughout the world, we, the faithful, extend our hands to touch His wounds in love, and thus be healed by them. We bring Him our fears, our broken hearts and lives, as well as our deepest joys and gratitude. We place our shattered hope in Him once more, and witness the glorious resurrection promised to Thomas and the others who put into practice the trust modeled by Mary.
We, who do not see what they saw, are called to trust that the Lord’s Word is true, that the bread and wine offered at Mass truly become His Body and Blood. If this is true, then we can never claim to be alone, lost, or forgotten – that greatest of human fears. If this is indeed true, then come, let us adore Him.
Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Divine Mercy
Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Revelation 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20: 19-31
Father Rodriguez is a parochial vicar at St. Teresa’s parish, Woodside.`