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“He invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.” —Pope Francis
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
Words of Pope Francis
St. John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples on the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, tells us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you!” and he showed them his hands and his side (John 20:19-20); he showed them his wounds. And in this way they realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord, and they were filled with joy.
On the eighth day Jesus came once again into the Upper Room and showed his wounds to Thomas, so that he could touch them as he had wished to, in order to believe and thus become himself a witness to the resurrection.
To us also, on this Sunday which St. John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, the Lord shows us, through the Gospel, his wounds. They are wounds of mercy. It is true: the wounds of Jesus are wounds of mercy. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love.
Through these wounds, as in a light-filled opening, we can see the entire mystery of Christ and of God: his passion, his earthly life—filled with compassion for the weak and the sick—his incarnation in the womb of Mary. And we can retrace the whole history of salvation: the prophecies—especially about the Servant of the Lord, the Psalms, the Law and the Covenant; to the liberation from Egypt, to the first Passover and to the blood of the slaughtered lambs; and again from the patriarchs to Abraham, and then all the way back to Abel, whose blood cried out from the earth. All of this we can see in the wounds of Jesus, crucified and risen; with Mary, in her Magnificat, we can perceive that “his mercy extends from generation to generation” (cf. Luke 1:50).
Faced with the tragic events of human history, we can feel crushed at times, asking ourselves, “Why?” Humanity’s evil can appear in the world like an abyss, a great void: empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life. And so we ask: how can we fill this abyss? For us it is impossible; only God can fill this emptiness that evil brings to our hearts and to human history. It is Jesus, God made man, who died on the cross and who fills the abyss of sin with the depth of his mercy.
St. Bernard, in one of his commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles (Sermon 61, 3–5: Opera Omnia, 2, 150–151), reflects precisely on the mystery of the Lord’s wounds, using forceful and even bold expressions which we do well to repeat today. He says that “through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of [Christ’s] heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high.”
Brothers and sisters, behold the way which God has opened for us to finally go out from our slavery to sin and death, and thus enter into the land of life and peace. Jesus, crucified and risen, is the way, and his wounds are especially full of mercy.
The saints teach us that the world is changed beginning with the conversion of one’s own heart, and that this happens through the mercy of God. And so, whether faced with my own sins or the great tragedies of the world, “my conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: ‘he was wounded for our iniquities’ (Isaiah 53:5). What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ?” [St. Bernard].
Keeping our gaze on the wounds of the risen Jesus, we can sing with the Church: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 117:2); eternal is his mercy. And with these words impressed on our hearts, let us go forth along the paths of history, led by the hand of our Lord and Savior, our life and our hope.
—Homily, St. Peter’s Basilica, Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), April 12, 2015
How do you experience God’s mercy filling what Pope Francis calls the “abyss” in your life, those areas “empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life”? Where do you see such emptiness in the world, and how can you extend your mercy to those places?
Just as Jesus pursued Thomas, do you ever sense Jesus pursuing you with his mercy? How might you grow in awareness that God wants to extend his mercy to you at every moment of your life?
Excerpted from The Holy Year of Mercy: A Faith-Sharing Guide with Reflections by Pope Francis (The Word Among Us Press, 2015). Available at wau.org/books