The Holy Catholic Church throughout the world reads this Gospel on the 2nd Sunday in Eastertide. Not only Roman Catholic and Anglican churches but Orthodox churches also. The Orthodox name today St Thomas Sunday because the Gospel tells how he recognised the risen Lord Jesus as his Lord and God.
This octave day of Easter has many names. Our country calls it Low Sunday, I suppose in comparison with the High Festival of Easter Day. Latin Christians in the early centuries called it ‘Dominica in albis’, Sunday in white, referring to the white robes worn by those who had been baptised during the Easter Vigil, which were worn in church throughout the octave.
Babies still wear the white chrisom but it would lift up our hearts to see new Christians if adults wore something white also for their baptism and confirmation.
A very recent title for this Second Sunday in Eastertide is the Sunday of the Divine Mercy. Inspired by a Polish nun’s visions of Jesus, Pope St John Paul II introduced this title into the Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a good name so it is becoming more widely used. It encourages us to look back to our observance of the Passion and Pasch of our Lord and Saviour with great gratitude at God’s abundant, wonderful mercy in delivering every human being and the entire cosmos from perdition to share his divine life.
Almost every page of the Bible speaks about God’s mercy.
True we read also about natural disasters and human wickedness of all kinds. We wonder why there is so much suffering if God is merciful. We cannot offer an easy answer except to say God has given every human person freewill and God does not intervene, not even to save his only Son from a brutal death. But in his astonishing mercy God does not allow death to have the last say.
In today’s Gospel we see God’s mercy shown in the case of one person and also to all generations. The incarnate Word of God did not reject or ignore his doubting disciple, Thomas, but strengthened his faith by showing him the wounds of crucifixion in his resurrection body. The Passion of Christ, his suffering and death as well as his glorious resurrection reveals the Divine Mercy. Jesus helps the apostle to voice, on behalf of all the apostles and every Christian, that wonderful confession of faith, ‘My Lord and My God’.
The commission the risen Lord Jesus gave to the eleven apostles shows that God is rich in mercy to all generations of humanity. The apostles and their successors are to be agents of God’s mercy, authorised to declare his judgement of forgiveness to the penitent and condemnation to those who deserve it. Is such condemnation a mercy? Yes because it’s a necessary warning intended to bring about a change of heart and repentance.
All of us have many reasons today to lift up our hearts and voices in great thanksgiving for God’s great mercy towards us. He loves all he has made and shows infinite compassion and mercy towards us that we may share in his eternal life.
Crispin Harrison CR