By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
In his homily during the celebration of the Divine Mercy Sunday liturgy, Pope Francis points out that the verb “to see” is repeated over and over in the Gospel text (John 20:19-31). Although the disciples see the Lord, the Gospel “does not describe how they saw him,” the Pope said. By mentioning the detail “he showed them his hands and his side” (v. 20), the Gospel seems “to tell us that that is how the disciples,” and Thomas, “recognized Jesus: through his wounds.”
“Seeing” for ourselves
Thomas wanted to “see inside,” Pope Francis continued. He wanted to touch “with his hand the Lord’s wounds, the signs of his love.” This is how Thomas is our twin, because so often we need to know for ourselves that God exists rather than taking others’ word for it. “No, we too need to ‘see God,’ to touch him with our hands and to know that he is risen for us,” the Pope said.
A Love Story
Pope Francis tells us that it is by seeing Jesus’ wounds that the disciples of all time know that we have been forgiven because we “contemplate the boundless love flowing from his heart” –a heart that beats for each person. When Thomas touched the Lord’s wounds, Jesus became “My Lord and my God.” Pope Francis describes the appropriation of God as mine as a “love story.” The uncertain, wavering disciple then falls in love with the Lord telling him: “You became man for me, you died and rose for me and thus you are not only God; you are my God, you are my life. In you I have found the love that I was looking for, and much more than I could ever have imagined,” Pope Francis said.
Savouring this love
The Pope says we can begin to savour this newfound love through the same gift Jesus granted on the evening of his Resurrection: the forgiveness of sins. Before forgiveness we may hide behind the doors of shame, resignation and sin.
Grace helps us understand shame as the “first step towards an encounter” and as a “secret invitation of the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil,” Pope Francis said.
Resignation tempts us to believe that nothing changes when we find ourselves lapsing, like the disheartened disciples after the “ ‘Jesus chapter’ of their lives seemed finished.” At a certain point, Pope Francis says that “we discover that the power of life is to receive God’s forgiveness and to go forward from forgiveness to forgiveness.”
The last closed door to open is sin. Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus “loves to enter precisely ‘through closed doors,’ when every entrance seems barred.” When we go to confession, we will learn that the very thing we believe separates us from God – sin – instead “becomes the place where we encounter him. There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds.”