'Put your hands into the holes' - Divine Mercy Sunday 2018

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Put your hands into the holes' - Divine Mercy Sunday 2018

Thomas was defiant when told by his fellow apostles that they had seen the risen Lord. He refused to accept their testimony and said, “Unless I put my hand in the holes the nails have made I refuse to believe.” He demanded proof. He would not believe unless he was personally satisfied.

In a way, Thomas reflects the radical individualism of our day, when people say, “I will only accept what I am satisfied with myself, everything must be done on my terms, and my terms alone.” The growth in the numbers of those who claim to have no religion is due, I think, in no small way to the fact that so many today only want what they themselves are satisfied with. People say that “if I cannot prove something then I will not accept it”. This radical individualism is indeed a great barrier to faith.

The Letter to the Hebrews says that faith is an act of trust in things not seen. (Heb 11:1) The act of faith is a deeply human act of openness to things beyond our understanding. This has become so difficult for so many contemporary people.

At this moment Thomas lacked faith. He fell back into his fallen humanity which was full of distrust. Despite all that he had witnessed concerning the ministry of Christ, he defiantly refused to believe something which was outside his experience. So, Thomas does stand for the modern sceptic, for the person who has closed his mind to the possibility of the extraordinary acts of God.

One week later, the Lord appears once again in his risen state to his apostles. Then he directly addresses Thomas and invites him to put his hands into the holes the nails have made and put his hand into his side.

It is a powerful moment as the Lord confronts his lack of faith. Thomas is humbled and then makes a profound testimony of his submission: he says, “My Lord and my God.” To an unbelieving Thomas the Lord reached out. The risen Lord did not condemn or reject him for his lack of faith. On the contrary, with profound patience he offered Thomas the chance to come to faith.

On this Octave Day of Easter each year, when we contemplate the defiance of Thomas and then witness his complete conversion, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday in accord with the instruction given by the Lord to St Faustina in Poland in the 1930s.

It is as though on the Sunday which focuses on the demand of Thomas to put his hands into the places of the nails and spear, the Lord has chosen to present himself again in his risen glory, and presents his wounds - especially his pierced heart.

The Divine Mercy image is a contemporary expression of what the Lord did to his apostles. The Lord appeared to them and showed them his wounds. The wounds of his crucifixion are the means by which we are saved.

The glorified Lord carried in his body the marks of his passion. His resurrection did not obliterate these signs of his great act of self-sacrifice. We cannot know Jesus without recognising his wounds. We cannot understand who Jesus is without understanding the significance of his wounds. For his identity is intimately tied to his passion and death. He is the Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb, who, as John the Baptist testified, has taken away the sins of the world.

His wounds are the marks of his act by which humanity is reconciled to God. His wounds are testimony to the mercy of God towards humanity, a mercy beyond our comprehension.

When the Lord appeared to St Faustina his wounds were in evidence. The hands were pierced, the feet showed the marks of the nails. However, it is the pierced heart that most expresses the meaning of the passion.

In the second reading today of the Mass today, we hear St John say that what can overcome the world is in fact the blood and the water. He says, in a remarkable phrase, “Jesus Christ who came with water and blood” St John cannot escape the significance of the blood and water which flowed from the pierced heart of Jesus.

In his account of the crucifixion, St John, alone among the evangelists – but, of course, he was the only one who was present – tells us that “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once,” he says, “There came out blood and water”. (Jn. 19: 34) In the very next verse, St John feels compelled to declare that this was what he saw, and comments, “His word of testimony is true, and he knows he tells the truth – that you also may believe.” This was a pivotal moment of revelation for St John.

The image of the Divine Mercy shows the pierced heart of Jesus from which streams of red and white light flow. This is the grace of salvation flowing now upon humanity. The piercing of the heart was the means by which the floodgates of mercy were opened upon a sinful, broken and suffering humanity.

The heart of Jesus was opened by a spear, and blood and water flowed out. His heart had given everything – the last drops of blood flowed from his body. His sacrifice was complete. But now from his open heart flows water: the grace of mercy. Streams of new life, streams of transforming grace, flow from the heart that was sacrificed for us all.

In his messages to St Faustina, the Lord said, “I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.” (Diary 341) This image before us today directs our attention to the pierced heart. It is as though the Lord is now addressing us in a similar manner in which he addressed Thomas. Because he wants us, on this Sunday after his resurrection, to focus our attention on his wounds, and especially upon his pierced heart.

The Lord declared to his chosen messenger, St Faustina, “On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.” As Thomas came to faith after being shown the wounds, so the Lord is appealing to the contemporary world, which has abandoned faith, to gaze like Thomas on the glorified Lord, especially upon the marks of his passion.

Contemplating the wounds of Jesus can move cold and obstinate hearts. It can bring about conversion. 

Notice that the Lord urges people to “approach the fount of mercy”. What is this “fount of mercy”?  The Lord continues. “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sin and punishment.”

In a powerful declaration the Lord says, “On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of My tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy”. (Diary 699)

The Lord said to Thomas, “Put your hands into the holes that the nails have made.” These holes are the wounds by which we are saved. These holes are the wounds by which we are healed. These holes are the means by which divine mercy flows out upon humanity.

The Feast of Divine Mercy invites us to see the risen Lord as not just glorious and set free from death, but to see the risen Lord now calling upon us and inviting us to be engaged with his great redemptive act so that we may obtain mercy.
He declares to us: “See me as the one who has saved you. See me as the source for the healing of your souls. See me as a fount of divine mercy.”

To St Faustina the Lord said, “My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy.” (Diary 742)

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 8 April 2018

To listen to an audio recording of Archbishop Julian's homily, click here: