Gospel Reflection for Divine Mercy Sunday
Throughout the Easter season, I have definitely been surprised by joy. I found the soundtrack for a stage production called "Cross and Light." My mom and I attended the show twice during its visit to our town a couple of years ago. It brings the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord to life in a creative way. The songs are beautiful and direct my heart to Our Lord and Our Lady. One of the songs is about Thomas not believing in the Risen Christ when he hears the news from his fellow apostles. He doesn't just want to hear about the Word; he wants to see and touch the Word Made Flesh.
The other day my friends and I were gathered in a small home office playing with a Virtual Reality headset. If you have not played with VR yet, it is crazy how "real" an environment feels after putting on the headset. One setting that we all took turns experiencing was taking an elevator up a high sky scraper and walking a plank overlooking a busy downtown street down below. Emily took awhile to even touch the plank and then ended up sitting down on the floor and scooting her way across the plank. Her husband grabbed her feet and jokingly pulled her further than she would have gone on her own. We all laughed as we watched our friend be so hesitant to walk a few inches in a familiar home office. We were the only ones who saw the reality of what was around her. She was seeing a false reality that was presented through her goggles. When her husband had a turn, he went up the elevator and said, "yeah, nope" and didn't even budge from the elevator to cross the plank. That's how real the experience was for him. Even virtual heights scared him.
Christ works through our senses and wants us to know Him in real ways. In a culture of relativism and reality shows, we have been so discombobulated (fun word) about what is actually going on around us. At the Easter Vigil, we hear the phrase "O happy fault" in the Exultet. Though Adam and Eve could walk in the Garden with God, their fault actually made way for the Son of God to live in us. Jesus came to meet us face-to-face, to touch us, heal us, die for us, and bring us the Eucharist so He would always be one with our flesh. Isn't that amazing?!
We can get caught up in what we see around us through our secular "headset." We can become afraid and despair. Jesus sees us and can laugh with us because He knows it's just a headset. He sees the whole room. He is always in control. We see pain, suffering, and sin in our temporal view. Yet, He tells us not to fear because He is eternal and not bound by time and space. He has won the battle and encourages us to rest in the freedom and truth of the victory.
What I love about the story of St. Thomas the Apostle is that Jesus answered his prayer and drew nearer than ever to him. Thomas wanted to see and touch His wounds. Jesus showed up and Thomas was invited to touch the glorious wounds of Our Risen Lord. Thomas drew near to Him and cried out, "My Lord and my God!" Thomas allowed his doubt to lead him to this strong definitive statement of belief.
We will all wrestle with doubt. Doubt leads to questions. Questions lead to answers. Answers lead to renewed faith. We have Scripture and Tradition to illuminate the path to knowledge and faith. Jesus welcomes questions. Ask. Seek. Knock. He will answer.
We are not to rely solely on knowledge though. Sometimes we just need to simply come and see. God's ways will not always make sense right away, but we can trust Him to lead us. As I am learning ballroom dancing, my partner often invites me to close my eyes so I can get out of my head. With my eyes closed, I feel more connected with my body and dance in sync with him. I am amazed at how much smoother and calmer my moves are when my eyes are closed as I trust my partner's lead.
Like in virtual reality games, our view can overstimulate or confuse us. We can get distracted by things going on outside of us rather than listening to what is happening inside of us. As we continue to reflect on Thomas' encounter with Jesus, let us try to pray with our eyes closed for a few minutes each day. Let us quiet our mind and our hearts so that we can listen to Jesus' still small voice inviting us to touch him and believe (John 20:27). Jesus wants us to know His merciful heart. Though Thomas doubted, he followed. Though he struggled with believing what he couldn't see, he died for His Savior that he knew and loved. May we know the true reality of Divine Mercy and love others with a heart like His. May we not hesitate to show our wounds to Our Lord and draw close to His.
"All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person's sins were as dark as night, God's mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, and then God will do the rest." Jesus to St. Faustina (Diary, 1507)
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion -- inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
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