Believing is Not Seeing
By Deacon John Hackett
Our man of the hour today is Thomas. But we don’t just call him Thomas; we call him Doubting Thomas. Why in the world, (he of all the apostles), had an insult attached to his name. I don’t know. Peter denied Christ three times, but I never heard anyone calling him Denying Peter. Even Judas, who committed treason against Jesus, is not given the nickname: Betraying Judas. But poor Thomas can’t rest in peace as just “Thomas”. No, he has forever been branded: Doubting Thomas!.
Of course, I do not deny that Thomas doubted. That much is certain. He did, and with great gusto! He wasn’t there with his fellow disciples when Jesus appeared to them that first Easter evening. When they told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas replies, “Unless I see in His hand the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hands into His side, I will not believe.” He demands visible, tangible proof before he’ll budge a fraction of an inch. He is pig-headed, recalcitrant, a mule of a man. A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic.
And for all that Thomas is, I am thankful. Thank God for the man who doubted Easter.
For all his pig-headedness, for his doubt, for his denial, for his dyed-in-the-wool skepticism – for all that, I thank God. Why? Because, as St. Gregory put it, “More does the doubt of Thomas help us to believe, than the faith of the disciples who believed.” I thank God that Thomas doubted, for when he later “touched the wounds in the flesh of his master, he healed in us the wounds of our unbelief.”
So..what was Thomas’s hang-up? He wanted something “real,” something you can sink your teeth into—or, rather, in his case, something you can sink your finger into, like that hole left by a crucifixion nail. He had seen the blood drip from Jesus’ dying body; he had seen the steel penetrate that body; he had seen the wood-smeared crimson; he had seen the stone rolled in front of the tomb. He had seen it all. And for Thomas, seeing is believing.
There’s only one problem: believing is not seeing. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen,” (from Hebrews 11:1). Actually, faith is believing the exact opposite of what you see, for that is how God reveals Himself to us.
God always wears a disguise. Jesus looks like a man, lives like a man, dies like a mere man. Yet faith says, “Jesus is God.” You do your daily work, you sweat, you put up with rude customers, you deal with unruly students, you do the ho-hum work of the daily grind. Yet faith says, “My labor is holy, divine work, for I am God’s tool that He uses to take care of others.” Yet you get sick, you lose weight, you hurt, you cry, you wonder how long you can last. Yet your faith says, “I am a blessed child of God, well-pleasing to Him, and I will live forever in Christ.”
Believing is not seeing. To believe is to confess that God is where God seems not to be, to confess that God is good when God seems to be bad, to confess that what is really real is the God hiding behind the exact opposite of what you see. That is faith.
And that is why faith is a gift. Because you can’t do it.
Like Thomas, we deem these things to be real: a freshly dug grave at the cemetery; a bank account fizzled to near nothing; a child who just won’t listen; a spouse who doesn’t care; peers who mock; friends who betray; a conscience that won’t shut up; a job that doesn’t satisfy; a sickness that grows stronger and more vicious day by day. Those are the things we consider real -as real evidence that God is holding out on us- is mad at us -doesn’t love us as much for us as He does for others.
Thomas was as we are. Yet Christ doesn’t appear and slap him for his doubt; He holds out His scarred hand for Thomas to see. “Reach here your finger,” He says, “and see my hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas reads like braille the scarred message of love inscribed on the Savior’s skin. He believes. He sees with the eyes of faith who Jesus really is, and he proclaims: “My Lord and my God.”
That is the way of our Lord, the way of grace. He doesn’t abandon Thomas to drown in a sea of doubt. He stretches out His nail-scarred hands and pulls him in. And so He does for you.
He takes your doubts and your fears and your shame and your bitterness and He makes them His own. And He takes His faith and His hope and His life and His joy and His glory and He makes them your own. He doesn’t remove your outward troubles; He gives you something better: inward peace. He may leave in place your dysfunctional family, your disease, your addiction, your pain, but He will not leave in place a heart empty of peace.
That’s what He’s all about: giving to you …..the peace that passes understanding, the kind of peace that knows that no matter how unfaithful you have been, God will never be unfaithful to you. The kind of peace that knows that no matter how great your sin, Christ’s love is always greater. The kind of peace that knows that no matter how bad this world may get at times, any suffering here is not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. That’s the kind of peace Christ gives: peace of heart when surrounded by ten thousand enemies.
In ending, along with Thomas, we know these things to be really real: the mercy of the Father, who never denies his baptized children; the love of Christ given and shed for you in body and blood; and the grace of the Holy Spirit, who gives you the peace that passes all understanding.
By Deacon Don Griffith
We know that God’s mercy is intimately connected to the forgiveness of sins. For those who may have been praying the Novena to the Divine Mercy there is this image of the Ocean of Mercy. This word ocean calls to our mind different thoughts. To be in the middle of the ocean with nothing around- we can’t see the end of the ocean. God’s mercy is vast. We don’t know how deep the ocean is. God’s mercy is unfathomable. And for this last thought I hope I don’t push the analogy too far, but I’m a poor swimmer so it happened that I enlisted in the United States Navy. In boot camp, we had to step off the tower and swim across the pool. Since we weren’t good swimmers, they first taught a small group of us to float on our back. I’d try to swim, and I’m not very good, I’d breathe in water, arms and legs would cramp up and I’d just about drown. Finally they said just float, and every once in a while I’d get a little push from the instructors and eventually I make it across. So that brings me to my last thought about the ocean of mercy. God’s mercy is vast, God’s mercy is unfathomable. There are those who are fighting and struggling against this ocean of mercy-in a sense rejecting it; and rejecting it leads us to drown- it costs us our eternal life. Instead, let us be open, allow ourselves to be buoyed up by the Ocean of Mercy itself, float on our back in silence because the water has come in our ears and our gaze is fixed on Him and we say I want to do your will, help me to do your will.
Having thought of the word ocean, let us turn now to mercy. St. Thomas has a couple questions on the topic of mercy, and I can’t cover them all but in one of them he says Mercy is especially to be attributed to God, as seen in its effect, but not as an affection of passion. Huh? For us, we see another person’s misery and we are affected with sorrow at this misery as if it were our own, and then we work to get rid or remove this misery. The getting rid of the misery is the effect of mercy. When we consider that the cause of all our misery is sin, let us ponder anew those words of the priest: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. God the Father of mercies so loved the world that in the fullness of time he sent his Only Begotten Son Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness as it is said during the Easter Vigil.
This past Easter Vigil there were 7 who knelt on the steps of this altar as we sang all you holy men and women pray for us and we begged Lord have mercy and then they turned, and led by the Light of Christ walked down to that font unsealed by the Father of mercies and waded into that ocean of mercy so to speak and by water and the Holy Spirit were reborn and made new, with no stain of sin neither of original sin nor of personal sin, nor was there left any punishment for sin. All of this being made possible by His blood the blood of the new and eternal covenant which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world (I John ii, 2). Yet God goes further, because the Creator knows His creatures so very well. The institution of the sacrament of Penance we hear in the Gospel today. Our Lord knew that some members of His Body, would fall into mortal sin after baptism. What a tremendous gift of love and mercy Our Lord entrusted to the Church through the ministry of the Apostles and down to our day through the bishops and priests.
And there is even more. The possibility of the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven through indulgences which are imparted to us through the infinite merits of Christ and the abundant merits of the saints—all those holy men and women whom we begged pray for us on that Holy Night of the Easter Vigil.
And yet there is even more, a special grace as we know from our Lord’s private revelation to St. Faustina and that is with trust in Divine Mercy the worthy reception of Holy Communion in a state of grace remits all sin and all punishments due to sin. Just as the Gospel on Easter Sunday was of our Lord’s resurrection, and the gospel today is the giving of the sacrament of penance, those two events occurred on the same day, so it is with Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday that liturgically, they are the same day. Having seen the cleanliness of those coming up from the baptismal font on the Easter Vigil, so it is for us today, which is that same day, that in the state of grace worthily receiving Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus pours out this ocean of mercy upon His entire Body throughout the whole world so that His whole body might shine forth with His radiance.
Having experienced such a great outpouring of Divine Mercy should lead us, out of love for Him, to those corporal and spiritual acts of mercy for others. To Him be the honor and glory for His mercy endures forever.
The Power of Christ’s Blood
By Deacon Mike Jacobs
You have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture before you speaks volumes and my words cannot do it justice. I would like you to listen to John Chrysostom catecheses on the power of Christ’s blood. St John lived from 347 to 407 is a Doctor of the Church, of the Eucharist and was called the “Golden-Mouthed”. If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw it on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The Gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of Baptism and the blood, of the Holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
There flowed from his side water and blood. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit and from the Holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of Baptism and Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! As God took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life. (ST. John Chrysostom)
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection, it was not just to show them he was alive; it was also to show them they were alive with new life and to teach them how to live it. Now that Jesus is risen, we are his risen Body on earth. Now we are the Savior, the Messiah, because he continues his saving presence and mission in us. The “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the favor of sharing in his own divine life by being incorporated into him. It is because we are in Christ as members of his Body, that that we live by his life, that we are identified, one with him in everything he is as the incarnate Son of God. Because we are “in Christ” we share in his divine identity, life and mission. This means that the title which describe Jesus in his mission now describe us. Jesus is living in us to continue carrying out his mission on earth. Everything he is a Savior he is now in us. And everything as Savior, we are called to be “in him”. This is the logical and awesome consequence of Jesus’ words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
So we must be “Son of David” to the world. Jesus’ first words to his disciples are “Peace be with you”. He has done what the promised Messiah-King was to accomplish; He has brought God’s peace to the world. It is not the kind of peace that is established through military power or which is dependent on control of the environment. It is the “peace of Christ” that interior “tranquility of order” which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away. When Jesus says, with the authority of the promised Son of David, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, he is saying that we — or rather, he in us now –must be Son of David and Messiah to our world. It is through us, through Jesus Christ working in and through our own human actions, that all of God’s promises are to be brought to fulfillment. It is we who are sent to bring the fullness of life and joy and peace to the world. This is not the peace of the contented cow in the pasture that just rests in satisfaction of all her felt desires. This is “God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding”, (phil 4:7) and it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit poured out to our hearts (Gal 5:22; Rm 14:7). What we are sent to bring to the world is not just some human contentment. Jesus was not the “Son of David” his people expected: just an earthly king bringing earthly prosperity. He was the “Son of God,” bringing a divine destiny to the human race. And so we are sent as Jesus was, to be more than human: to be the human presence of God himself in the world and to bring the world to that divine fulfillment which is found only in union with Christ by grace. That is why Jesus breathed on his disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”. This divine fulfillment presupposes deliverance from sin and so Jesus says, “If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them.” This refer to more than Baptism and sacramental absolution. Each one of us is named “Jesus,” “God-saves,” because each one of us is sent to “save his people from their sins” (see Mt 1:22). We do this in many and varied ways, but it is always a characteristic of our mission.
Finally, we are sent, as Jesus was, to save the world through bodily presence, through physical, human contact. Jesus was called “Emmanuel,” “God-with-us”, because he was on earth for people to see and touch and interact with in human ways and he still invites people, as he invited Thomas, to see and touch his physical, risen Body. We are that Body and it is only through experiencing Jesus made flesh in us, expressing his love in our human actions that many people will be able to believe. As his risen Body on earth we are “Emmanuel.” We are the touchable Jesus.
The Essence of the Divine Mercy Devotion – for Holy Hour
By Deacon Mike Jacobs
The message of the Divine Mercy is a call and challenge:
Trust in God’s Mercy and Be Merciful.
The Message of Divine Mercy is that God is merciful. He is love itself poured out for us, and He wants no one to escape that merciful love. The message is that God wants us to turn to Him with trust and repentance while it is still a time of mercy, before He comes as the just Judge. This turning with trust to Him who is Mercy itself is the only source of peace for mankind. Turning to and imploring God’s mercy is the answer to the troubled world. There is no escaping that answer.
Divine Mercy is God’s love poured out on the undeserving in creating us, redeeming us and sanctifying us. It is “Loves second name” (Rich in Mercy, John Paul II). Mercy has been described as love of the unlovable and forgiveness of the unforgivable. It is love in action.
What God most wants of us is to turn to Him with trust. And the first act of trust is to receive His mercy. To trust God is to rely on Him who is Mercy itself. The Lord wants us to live with trust in Him in all circumstances. We trust Him because He is God, and He loves us and cares for us. His mercy is always available to us, no matter what we have done or what state we are in, even if our sins are as black as night and we are filled with
fears and anxieties.
“The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 723)
But there is more we can do. As Catholics, as Christians, we can go to the Sacrament of
Reconciliation and be reconciled to God and to man. The Lord wants us to live reconciled with Him and one another.
Not only are we to receive His mercy, but we are to use it, being merciful to others by our actions, by our words, and by our prayers; in other words by practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy are feeding the
hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the travelers, comforting the prisoners, visiting the sick, and burying the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy include teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, correcting sinners, counseling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving wrongs willingly.
The message of mercy is the content and the challenge of Sacred Scripture. In the Hebrew Bible we see a God of mercy who calls His people to be merciful. In the New Testament Jesus exhorts us:
“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”(Lk 6:36).
He sets the highest goal for us and expects us to obtain it by His merciful love:
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).
When He comes again, He will judge us on our mercy toward one another:
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
The message and response of mercy is not something new. In the past, God spoke a message of mercy through the patriarchs and prophets — through Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah and many others. In the last days God has spoken to us by His Son, Jesus Christ, who is Mercy personified and incarnated. God continues to speak a word of mercy even to our generation, through the Church and its shepherds, and through holy men and women —mystics — whom God has chosen as His vessels. In our century He revealed Himself to Saint Faustina, a simple and holy nun in Poland during the 1930s. He called her to be His secretary and His apostle of mercy. He spoke to her of His mercy and the way He wants us to respond to it.
The message of The Divine Mercy — Jesus Himself — is at the heart of the gospel. The message of mercy presents the truth and the call of the gospel to our present age. This message of mercy is proclaimed by St John Paul II, in his encyclical Rich in Mercy, as the message for our age. His encyclical is a strong summons for us to implore mercy for ourselves and for the whole world — NOW!
In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, in the spirit of His messianic mission, which endures in the works of mankind, we lift up our voice and plead: that the love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history and that, through the work of The Son and The Holy Spirit, that love may be shown to be present in our modern world and be shown to be more powerful than evil: more powerful than sin and death (Rich in Mercy, 15).
Our Lord’s revelations to Saint Faustina speak of now as the time of mercy. There is a special urgency in this message. Repeatedly, our Lord stressed that now is the day of mercy before the coming of the Day of Judgment. Now is the time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. “Write this,” He said to her:
“Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy… I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners). But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation” (Diary, 83, 1160)
To this powerful message from the Lord, Saint Faustina adds her own exhortation. “O human souls,” she asks, “where are you going to hide on the day of God’s anger? Take refuge now in the fount of God’s Mercy” (Diary, 848)
Our Lord’s words to us through Saint Faustina are unmistakably clear:
“Speak to the world about My mercy: let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times, after it will come the
day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy, let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed
forth for them” (Diary, 848).
So, the challenge awaits us now to speak out and tell the world of this infinitely merciful God who is waiting for us to turn to Him with trust and become merciful to others as He is merciful to us. God’s mercy as presented to us through Saint Faustina:
“God’s floodgates have been opened for us Let us want to take advantage of them before the day of God’s justice arrives… O what a great multitude
of souls I see! They worshiped The Divine Mercy and will be singing the hymn of praise for all eternity” (Diary, 1159, 848).
Our Lord not only taught Saint Faustina the fundamentals of trust, and of mercy to others, but He also revealed special ways to live out the response to His mercy. These we call the devotion to The Divine Mercy. The word “devotion” means fulfilling our vows. It is a commitment of our lives to the Lord who is Mercy itself. By giving our lives to The Divine Mercy — Jesus Christ Himself — we become instruments of His mercy to others, and so we can live out the command of the Lord:
“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).
Through Saint Faustina, Our Lord gave us special means of drawing on His mercy: an Image of The Divine Mercy, a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Feast of Mercy, a novena, and prayer at the three o’clock hour — the hour of His death. These special means are in addition to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, which have been given to the Church.