Divine Mercy Sunday give us an opportunity to contemplate our own understanding of belief in Jesus.
In the Gospel Jesus makes a direct reference to us. He says: Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ We were not in that upper room with the disciples, and we couldn’t put our finger into the holes left by the nails. Yet we still believe that Christ is our Saviour, the Son of God, that he rose from the dead and now lives at the right hand of God.
We have the Gospels and the Sacraments to sustain us. And we can partake in liturgy and Church laws to keep us on the path and to remind us of Christ’s presence in our life.
But there is something else. The centrality of our belief is all about encounter. Our Upper Room, where we meet Christ, is a place we can go to all day and every day, if only we keep practicing. We monks and nuns strive to live in a state of constant prayer. And prayer is nothing if not encounter. we strive beyond the realms of the church door and structured liturgy to enter into that Upper Room and communicate with Christ. For much of that time we might feel like the disciples before Christ appeared to them: empty, desolate, perhaps even afraid. There is no doubt that the spiritual path is populated with great dryness; we do not tend to live on transformational spiritual summits, but in the lower foothills of the presence of God. The monastic day is mundane, a diurnal round of simple living, with space to just stop and sit on the foothills. We can be tricked into thinking that it is all a huge waste of time. And sometimes the clouds part and we experience his presence. This landscape of presence is not just something we look at: we are part of that scene, we are part of the communion.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. This message is for us, then, who still seek him through the mundanity of our daily life.
Yet, the last word must be about the Upper Room of the disciples. Notice that it was a closed room. They had effectively barricaded themselves in for fear of the Jews. In other words they were still, in some way, fearful that who they believed in was now gone, that they could not prove their faith, that they would not be accepted, that they would be punished. Later, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires them to break open those doors and proclaim the Gospel like an unstoppable river.
We all run the risk of making our own relationship with God into this kind of Upper Room, one whose boundaries are defined by fear and not a little selfishness. It is a balancing act between nurturing that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and breaking open the doors of our faith to the whole world, fearless and proclaiming Easter with our song: Alleluia!
A reading from the Gospel according to John 20:19-31
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe’. Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.