“I” Witness: Wk 2: Help My Unbelief
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, a Devotion which was approved by Pope St. John Paul II and which holds a special promise, which I will speak of later. We are continuing this week our Easter series which is called “I” Witness, the eye being spelled with the capital “I”. That I am to be a witness to my faith in Jesus Christ.
The apostles and other disciples that saw and encountered the Resurrected Christ went out into the world to proclaim the Gospel and the ultimate proof that Christ is the Savior of the world in his glorious and triumphant resurrection. They went out to a world that was often pagan and did not know the true God. They gave witness to their faith both by word and by action, with many of them making the ultimate sacrifice of their faith by dying as martyrs. Even when their persecutors demanded that they deny their faith in Jesus Christ in order to save their life, they would not. Why? Because they had seen the Risen Christ and their faith in the resurrection and the eternal life that awaited them gave them the courage to endure the trials and suffering of martyrdom.
Even St. Peter, who had denied Christ three times at his arrest, would go on to win the crown of martyrdom in his own crucifixion in Rome, where he would be crucified upside down.
Faith in Jesus and His Resurrection has been passed down for over two thousand years to arrive with us in this present moment in history to where it is now our turn , my turn, to be witnesses to Christ and to pass on the faith. If we had a looking glass to look back at the past we would see the faith being passed on by men and women of every background and status. Merchants, farmers, servants, shop keepers, teachers, grandparents, parents, and people who were both married, or single or widowed, as well as priest and religious. We are called to give witness to our faith in Christ. The first witnesses to the faith always starts at the home with my family. Each of us is to be a witness to the truth and transforming grace in my faith in Jesus. We can do this at home, at work, in school or in the grocery store or on the highway. Wherever we find ourselves is an opportunity to be a witness to Christ.
There are some very important things for us to reflect upon in today’s Gospel:
1. Jesus greets the disciples with the salutation, “Peace be with you”. Even though they had abandoned him at his crucifixion, he greets them with Peace to instill in them courage and confidence in His Mercy. The same holds true to us. In our sins and failures, Jesus encourages us and calls us to experience his blessing of peace in Confession.
2. He commissions them by sending them out into the world. They and we are all called to share in the salvific work of Christ in His redemption, and to bring his message of peace and salvation to the world.
3. He breathed on them the Holy Spirit instituting the Sacrament of Confession with the words: Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The Sacrament of Confession is directly linked to Christ giving the Apostles the authority to forgive sins, by which his mercy is experienced in a most intimate and powerful way in Sacrament of Confession.
Its also important to look at the role of St. Thomas who received that famous nickname, Doubting Thomas. But the doubt of Thomas is changed into faith when he encounters Christ who invites him to place his finger into his wounds. Thomas reply is an act of faith, of adoration, and of self-surrender without limits: My Lord and my God. These five words are inexhaustible source of inspiration and devotion. These words are a beautiful prayer we can recite in moments of doubt or trial, My Lord and My God.
For Thomas, His faith springs not so much from the evidence of seeing Jesus as from an immense sorrow. It isn’t so much the proof, as his love, that leads him to adoration and to renewing his commitment to following Christ.
It was by divine providence and not by chance that Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to his disciples in order that Gods mercy would be made visible in the doubting apostle in an extraordinary way. When Thomas touched his Master’s wounded flesh, he cured the wound of disbelief, so the doubting disciple, who actually touched, became a witness to the reality of the resurrection. St. Thomas spent the rest of his life being a witness to the truth of the Resurrection of the Lord. He would eventually reach India, where he was called to give his life in martyrdom in testimony of His faith in the resurrected Christ. Jesus permitted the doubt of Thomas so that he would teach by this example the blessings we receive ,who have not seen but believe. Jesus blesses us in our faith with the words:
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jesus blesses us and teaches us we are blessed in our faith in him though we have not seen him. We must always seek to protect this gift of faith through daily prayers and renewing our commitment to follow Jesus.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, an extraordinary gift to the Church in our times and to all of us.
Pope John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.” St. Faustina was a Polish nun who received visions from Jesus, including one of Jesus wearing a white garment with beams of red and white coming from His heart, which came to be known as the image of Divine Mercy. The words, Jesus I trust in You were requested by Our Lord as a part of the image that is used for devotion. When Pope, St. John Paul the II was shot in 1982, while in hospital he requested the Diary of St. Faustina be brought to him in which Jesus requested the Second Sunday after Easter be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. It was subsequently by the authority of Pope St. John Paul II that the Devotion of the Divine Mercy was approved and promulgated.
Jesus promised a profound and immense grace to those who would celebrate this feast of His Divine Mercy. This grace is the forgiveness of all sins and the removal of all punishment due to sin. This is essentially like the grace of baptism. We start with a clean slate.
Jesus promised St. Faustina that those who received Holy Communion in a state of grace on Divine Mercy Sunday (Feast of Mercy) would receive “the complete remission of sins and punishment”(Diary 699). This is an extraordinary grace. It means that if we do this devotion and we still need to atone for sins that atonement is completely removed.
To receive these graces, the only condition is to receive Holy Communion worthily on Divine Mercy Sunday (or the Vigil celebration) by making a good confession beforehand and staying in the state of grace and trusting in His Divine Mercy. Jesus is teaching us through this devotion to always trust in Him, in His love for us. He wants to make it so easy for us to reach heaven he is giving us this extra grace.
May we strive to carry the Mercy of Christ to all whom we encounter and may He help us to be faithful witnesses to him to all the world. Lord Help Me to give witness to you, help me to live each day with renewed and courageous faith. Help me to trust always in your Mercy and help. Jesus I trust in You.