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Divine Mercy Sunday - Homily

What a powerful moment it must have been when the Risen Christ burst into the room where the frightened disciples had hidden. Jesus said to them, quite simply, ‘Peace be with you’ and ‘showed them his hands and his side’. It’s interesting what He didn’t say. If most of your closest friends had deserted you and you had died a slow, painful, very public death, I think most of us standing in His shoes would probably say something very different, full of anger and vengeance. But Jesus being human and divine shows us another way. He points to His wounds - not only to prove that He really is the Jesus who was crucified and has now risen but to say ‘look what they did to me, they made these holes in my hands and my side. I suffered this out of love for you. Despite these wounds, because of these wounds, I bring you love, peace and mercy.’

Thomas, of course, has trouble believing the story the disciples later tell him. I always feel sorry for Thomas - we call him ‘Doubting Thomas’ and this is not really meant as a compliment. We somehow see him as very fallible and lacking in faith. Yet, wouldn’t most of us have exactly the same reaction? Don’t we all have times of doubt and questioning, times when we want proof? This does not make us weak in faith, especially if we are open-minded like Thomas, who, after putting his hand in Jesus’ wounds, exclaims, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus’ wounds are quite a distinctive feature of our Catholic tradition. To many of us, though, it might seem strange, even grotesque to venerate someone else’s wounds. But this devotion has been popular from the Middle Ages and promoted by the likes of St Bernard and St Francis. There is even a special Rosary of the Holy Wounds, while the Portuguese coat of arms, which can be found on that country’s flag, has five small blue shields arranged in the form of a cross, which are supposed to represent Christ’s wounds.

Wounds are ugly - we know that because we all have them - but in the light of the Resurrection Christ’s wounds become glorious signs of our redemption, and of the infinite love that God has for each of us. Light streams out of them. As St Bernard said, ‘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.’ That’s why Jesus showed them to His disciples and to Thomas and continues to do so to us. Seeing His wounds, we not only receive His love and mercy but are sent out to spread it to our brothers and sisters.

Seeing His wounds, let us seek out the wounds in our families and friends, the wounds of our society, the wounds on the body of His Church, - yes, our own wounds. These days of lockdown may have revealed them - wounds that exist deep down, wounds that have been half-forgotten and have re-emerged, new wounds caused perhaps by self-isolation, the frustration of being stuck at home, the intensity of circumstances. In the light of the Resurrection, even our wounds and past failings become signs of hope and opportunity.

May the Lord have mercy on us, may he bring us to new life and may He heal us with His fiery love.

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