Today’s celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy takes us right to the heart of the Paschal Mystery. On Good Friday we stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus as he suffered and died. Last Sunday we came to the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and rejoiced to find that the Lord had risen from the dead. Today we are with the disciples as Jesus comes into our midst and shows us his wounded hands and his side. He wants us to really look at his wounds. This becomes even clearer when he says to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side.”
It is valuable for us to stop and ponder Jesus’ wounds today. We can spend some time perhaps contemplating a crucifix or an image of the crucifixion. This is God, and he has been wounded for our sake! This revelation is unique to Christianity. No other religion speaks of a God who can be wounded. Indeed, the very idea seems absurd. How could any creature wound the eternal God? It would never have been possible, except that our God, in the Second Person of the Trinity, chose to join himself to human flesh – the wonder of the Incarnation – and in that flesh he allowed himself to be wounded, and killed, for our sake. He did this as an act of mercy for us.
In his homily for the canonization of Sr. Faustina, Pope Saint John Paul II said this: “Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified: ‘My daughter, say that I am love and mercy personified,’ Jesus will ask Sr. Faustina (Diary, p. 374).… And is not mercy love’s ‘second name’ (cf. Dives in Misericordia, n. 7), understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its immense capacity for forgiveness?” (Homily, Mass for the Canonization of Sr. Mary Faustina Kowalska, Sunday, 30 April 2000, no. 2). On the Cross, Jesus won forgiveness for us by taking on the burden of our sin. In doing so, God was truly wounded; he truly suffered and died.
We often struggle to believe how much God really loves us. In today’s Gospel he speaks directly to our hearts about this very question: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” These wounds bear witness that I love you even more than my own life!
In his homily, Pope Saint John Paul II said that “Christ pours out this mercy on humanity through the sending of the Spirit who, in the Trinity, is the Person-Love.” He later went on to say, “Humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. It is the Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart, pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another, and at the same time, restores the joy of the Father’s love and of fraternal unity” (ibid., nos. 2 & 3). It is the Holy Spirit who heals our wounds and makes it possible for us, as St. Peter says in the second reading, to come into “a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” And the Spirit, we can say, was sent to us by Jesus through his wounds.
To those whom he gives the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in the Gospel, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We have received mercy from the wounded Heart of Jesus. He calls us in turn to allow ourselves to be wounded out of love for our brothers and sisters, to win forgiveness and healing for them. We turn again to Pope Saint John Paul II’s homily: “It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self. This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love. Looking at him, being one with his fatherly heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy!” And he goes on to say, “To the extent that humanity penetrates the mystery of this merciful gaze, it will seem possible to fulfill the ideal we heard in today’s first reading: ‘The community of believers were of one heart and one mind’” (ibid., no. 5).
Can we possibly love like this? Can we beg God’s forgiveness and healing, even for those who have wounded us? Can we show forth the merciful love of Jesus in the world? Certainly not by our own power, but the readings today assure us that this is possible by the power of the Spirit working in us. Let us enter deeply into the Wounded Heart of Jesus today so that, through us, he may continue pouring forth his mercy upon the world. Jesus, I trust in you!
Why is it important for my spiritual life to ponder Jesus’ wounds today on Mercy Sunday? Despite my sinfulness, how strong is my faith in the mercy of God? In what ways can I win healing and forgiveness for my brothers and sisters?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.