Happy Divine Mercy Sunday! For those who don’t know about this great day of devotion, let me try to give you a reason to celebrate today.
The Catholic Church has this great devotion called the Divine Mercy. It all started with a young Polish nun named Sr. Faustina, who loved Jesus deeply. She began having visions of Jesus and, obedient to her superiors, wrote down her encounters with Him. The image of the Divine Mercy, which comes straight from Sr. Faustina’s visions of Jesus, depicts two rays shooting out from the heart of Jesus.
When Sr. Faustina asked Jesus what these rays meant, He responded, “The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. (paragraph 299 of “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska”)
As I’ve journeyed through the Easter season this past week, this scene of the Crucifixion that Jesus mentioned to Sr. Faustina keeps finding its way to the forefront of my heart. After Jesus has died, before His body has been taken down from the Cross, the soldiers are breaking the legs of the others being crucified to ensure a timely death. When they come to Jesus, they see that He’s already dead.
“One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” – John 19:34
Jesus’ body is dead. His apostles (those left at the scene that is) must be heartbroken. This man that they’ve given up everything to follow – He is dead. And they don’t fully understand the words He spoke that would give them hope in this moment – the words that prophesied His rising, that He would “rebuild this temple in three days.”
In the midst of this darkness, when all hope seemed lost, this is when Jesus deemed to show this image of His mercy. Gruesome as it may be to really think about it, the blood and water that came out of the wound in His side poured down to the ground where the apostles were mourning. What was it to be beneath the mercy pouring from His heart?
Let’s move forward a couple verses in John’s Gospel. The apostles (except poor, poor Thomas) are locked in the upper room, full of paralyzing fear. Jesus appears before them, with a message of peace and mission and He breathes the Holy Spirit over them.
When the apostles later tell Thomas about their post-Resurrection encounter with the Lord, he is ever the cynic. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) (*Side note: how many times in my life do I speak these words? If I don’t have all the signs and stars aligned, if all the evidence isn’t in plain sight, I can be so slow to believe.)
But a week later, Jesus comes again and Thomas is there to see it with his own eyes. I imagine being Thomas here. Elated that the news I was skeptical of is actually true, but also ashamed that I didn’t pass some kind of test of faith. In that moment, I would’ve preferred to stay in the background. Just give us your message, Lord, and don’t single me out. But Jesus, after just one statement addressed to the group, comes to Thomas. In the past, I’ve imagined these words that Jesus speaks were filled with sarcasm, a real “they-told-you-so” manner. But that is not the nature of God. It’s the result of my own woundedness.
Instead, these words of Jesus – they come from a place of love for Thomas. The Lord gives Thomas an opportunity to do exactly as he desired. The Lord’s voice doesn’t place shame on Thomas’ doubt; it carries a calm, a peace. “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving but believe.” (John 20:27).
That wound in the Lord’s side. Where blood and water poured out. Where his Mercy poured out. That’s where He wants Thomas to be. He wants Thomas to place his unbelieving there in the place where Mercy can pour over it. Where Mercy can heal it.
My brothers and sisters, that’s where the Lord wants me and you. Even in our doubt, He invites us into that wound in His side. He invites us – and all the baggage and wounds we carry – into His Mercy. Jesus isn’t deterred by our weakness or our doubt; His Mercy is attracted to it.
So on this Divine Mercy Sunday, wherever you’re at this Easter season – be it a season of joy in every instance or a time of wandering or difficulty – bring it all to His pierced side, where His Mercy is waiting to pour out over it and bring it to new life.