Yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday, in case your parish didn’t see fit to mention it.
One of the great sadnesses of contemporary Catholic life and conversation is that it has become so politicized and factionalized. Sure, divisions and disagreements, heresies and heterodoxy have always been a part of Catholic life, but these days, the divisions seem more powerful than ever, perhaps because of the power of mass communications. Too many Catholics, especially those involved in presenting the Faith to the public and the wider culture, are motivated by defining who’s really Catholic and who’s not. Sure, there’s a place for that kind of conversation (not with the end of exclusion, of course, but with the end of honing and understanding our identity) and discernment, but these days, it’s almost all you hear. Everyone is either on the attack or on the defensive.
Lost in all of that, of course, is the Gospel. Which is exactly what the Sower of Discord wants. Exactly.
Lost is the whole reason for the Church: to point every person on earth to the reality of God’s love and mercy.
Mercy, of course, is another word for the compassionate, forgiving love of God.
Do you believe in it?
I don’t mean in general – I mean in particular. Do you believe in it for you?
Yesterday’s Gospel concerned Thomas. My husband has a very interesting perspective on that Gospel, which I hope he will share on his site (I’ll let you know when he does). But when we consider this Gospel as the Good News for us on Mercy Sunday, it takes on a different light than it does in its usual presentation.
Doubt is a part of almost everyone’s faith, and when we think of Thomas, we usually think of it in terms of doubting the possibility of the truth of various tenets of faith. But in the context of Divine Mercy, we might take it to a deeper level. How tempted are we to doubt that most basic tenet of faith – the one that tells us in words and in the figure of Jesus Crucified and Risen, that Mercy is ours?
What pain, what difficulty, what suffering we put ourselves through because we close ourselves off to God’s mercy. For some strange reason, we decide that we know better than God: God may have said that we can be forgiven, but in our strange, masochistic pride, we decide that we can’t. God must be wrong.
Sin is a terrible thing with terrible consequences. When we have done something wrong, we stand looking in horror at what our selfishness has unleashed. It seems impossible that we could ever be forgiven. We will not believe it, we say.
But perhaps, we need to be more like Thomas. We need to confront our doubt and put our fingers in Jesus’ side. We need to contemplate Jesus crucified and consider why he is there. Is he there so we can continue to beat ourselves over the head or be buried under our own crosses? Was he just wasting his time so we can continue our frustrated, angry, mournful journeys, letting sin define who we are rather than God’s love? Or are we willing to really embrace the gift of our baptisms, which is the victory over sin and death? Are we free in Christ or does sin still have power over us? (Romans 6)
We are called to embrace Mercy – God’s mercy on us, God’s mercy on the world, an unbounded mercy that we are invited to share.
Like Thomas, we doubt. We doubt that God could have really meant to include us and our specific wretchedness in his embrace. We doubt that Jesus crucified really and truly has anything to do with us. We doubt that the promise of resurrection can be fulfilled in our spirits, chained down by sin, right here and right now.
But it is never too late. Never too late to join our voices to Thomas’, and say “My Lord and My God.” Never too late to turn our hearts and pray, as often as we need, “Jesus, I trust in you.”