Healing plays a huge role in our society. We spend billions on healthcare, and rightly so. Like our physical health, our spiritual health also needs attention. Throughout the Gospels, healing is one of the major characteristics of Jesus’ ministry. Some are recalled in detail, others simply noted. Yet, all these healings are signs of the kingdom of God. Here in Christ, God comes forth into our world in a new and dynamic way, fulfilling his promises and, at times, turning the laws of nature upside down.
Today, we hear this ministry of spiritual healing being passed to the Eleven, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our Gospel passage today is the scriptural basis for the sacrament of reconciliation. John tells us that Jesus appears to the Eleven as they hid in the Upper Room. One can imagine the stale air and oppressive smell in a room shut away from the world. But Jesus appears among them like a fresh breeze filling the house, displacing the stale air of fear, gently blowing away the dust of disappointment and propelling the disciples to forgiveness and healing.
In this moment of encounter and empowerment, the Apostles are given a holy responsibility to share God’s healing and forgiveness with others. They are now carriers of God’s promises and have the power to heal physically and spiritually in Christ’s name. What they say about the risen Christ is no mere fantasy or delusion. They witnessed his death and Resurrection, and now they bear witness to his risen glory, becoming instruments of the very mercy and forgiveness Jesus so abundantly and generously bestows on all who follow him.
John then shows us how Thomas receives this life changing mercy. Thomas finds it hard to believe what the other disciples tell him; Jesus literally stands before him and shows him his wounds: he gently takes Thomas from doubt to faith. Using his own words, Jesus coaxes one of the great declarations of faith, My Lord and my God. In that moment, Thomas is both healed and his life changed forever; healed of his grief and pain, changed from doubt to belief.
The need for that mercy and healing is just as great today as it was in the first century. Perhaps that is why Pope John Paul declared today to be Divine Mercy Sunday. At the heart of our faith is this recognition that we need the risen Christ; we need his healing and above all his steadfast mercy. Without these we are lost, still in our sins, unable to be reconciled with God. As we continue to celebrate the Resurrection, let us each open our own hearts to that healing and then commit ourselves to be channels of that healing in our words and actions for others.
Jesus I Trust in You! Fr Dave