John 20:19-31 (Second Sunday of Easter/Feast of Divine Mercy)
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
This year’s Divine Mercy Sunday takes on a special significance as we are in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis wishes all Christians and all people of good will to draw from this wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace upon which our salvation depends (Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 2). This jubilee of mercy could not have come upon us at any better point in our history as individuals and as a human family. There is a real gnawing feeling of thirst and hunger for mercy in families, communities, nations: the long queues for confessions just last Holy Week, the filled-up appointment books of counseling centers, the crowded prison cells and city slums. Only last week, Belgium was shocked by another terrorist attack in Brussels airport. This comes only three months after the Paris synchronized attacks last November 2015. The refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe has simply disappeared from mainstream media; but we know that thousands of women, children, elderly are suffering from daily hunger and starvation in refugee centers scattered in the borders of continents and countries. A world in dire need of mercy.
The psalmist’s words are a fitting song with which to express this:
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
Hence, Shakespeare’s image of mercy as a gentle rain dropping from heaven is a very powerful and moving metaphor for mercy. Oftentimes, we dismiss friends and families who hold questions in their hearts, who entertain doubts in their minds. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20.25). Jesus could have scolded Thomas for his unbelief. He could have given him a beating for requiring proof before believing in the resurrection. But Jesus, as he always did, saw beyond Thomas’ unbelief. He saw and then he had mercy. He granted Thomas’ wish: he showed him his hands and his side. He allowed Thomas to touch him. He gave Thomas his heart’s desire. And in response, Thomas gave Jesus his full profession of faith: “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28).
In the meeting of Jesus’ eyes of mercy and Thomas’ eyes of faith, a connection is established. Their relationship is restored: “My Lord and God.” Pope Francis beautifully describes what mercy is and what it does: “Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2).
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we allow the merciful gaze of the Risen Christ, the King of Mercy, to meet our eyes and turn them towards our poor brothers and sisters, our parched earth, our thirsty world. May our tears flow in solidarity with their silent screams and sorrows. May these tears be the gentle rain that will soak the earth to its depths from which will spring seeds of mercy and compassion.
Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in you!