This homily is based on John 20:19-31 for the Sunday of the Divine Mercy.
He couldn’t wait.
That’s certainly what it looks like. The Risen Lord seemed to be in such a rush to appear to the disciples. Not only, we are told, did He show up in that room on the evening of the first day of the week (that’s Easter Sunday, the same day He rose from the dead), but He also didn’t let the locked doors keep Him away.
He couldn’t wait, could He?
To do what? To show Himself to HIs disciples, to offer them a greeting of peace, to show the wounds on His hands and side.
I get that. If I were the Lord, I’d also be excited to share the good news of my resurrection with the disciples, and to prove it to them beyond any reasonable doubt by showing them the evidence–the wounds on my hands and side.
But something tells me that there’s more to this scene than what meets the eye. I have a suspicion that something else might be going on here. I reread the passage, mulled over it again, and prayed over it—and I have a hypothesis.
Maybe the reason why the Risen Christ couldn’t wait to show up where He did was His desire to forgive them. His first word to them was “Peace.” He knew that the disciples had been distressed and mortified for having deserted Him when He most needed them. So it wouldn’t be so far-fetched–in fact, it would be so typical of Him that the first thing He would want to do upon rising from the dead was to rush over and assure His disciples that they had been forgiven and that all was well.
But He did a couple of other things that evening that struck me as strange, two things He didn’t really need to do. He showed them His wounds and He gave them the power to forgive.
I mean, when you forgive someone, the last thing you want to do is show them the wounds that they’re partly to blame for, right? Also, when you forgive someone, the last thing you yourself would want to see is the wounds that they’ve caused.
Secondly, is this the right time to give them the power to forgive others? I mean, you’ve just forgiven them for the terribly cowardly thing they did to you. Isn’t it ironic that you would empower them to forgive others?
But of course, when you think about it, there must be a rhyme and reason to everything the Lord does. So again I thought about it, and here are my theories.
Why did He show His wounds to them? Aside from the need to prove to them that it’s really Him, the Risen Lord didn’t do it to rub what they’ve done to Him in their faces. That’s not the kind of thing Jesus would do. Rather, I think He’s trying to tell us something. That while the rest of us insist on healing first before even considering forgiving, our Lord is telling us He’s not waiting for that. Even with wounds still open and fresh, He is already willing to forgive—and perhaps we should too.
Our Lord has already shown us in Calvary that His love is unconditional. In Easter, He shows us that His forgiveness has equally no conditions too. His mercy does not have any of the conditions that the rest of us tend to impose on others before we forgive them: Unless my wounds have healed, I will not and cannot forgive. Unless my enemies repent first, I will not be able to grant any mercy.
But the Lord—He just forgives. Without conditions.
Perhaps it’s because He knows that if we don’t forgive, we just end up burying ourselves and locking ourselves in some self-imposed tomb. Is it possible that the Lord rose from the dead also out of His love for His disciples and He overcame death also because of His eagerness to forgive them and bring them consolation?
Now, how many of us are as eager to forgive our enemies? Far from climbing out of the graves we’ve dug for ourselves, far from going through locked doors, we’d rather obsess with going over our enemies’ faults again and again, allowing our self-righteous anger to consume us, forgetting that for as long as we don’t stop hating, the stone blocking our liberation from the tomb will never roll away.
Is it possible that forgiving our enemies is a form of self-compassion too?
Of course in the midst of this Sunday Gospel story we find the figure of Thomas, the disciple who was absent that first Easter Sunday evening when the Lord appeared to the disciples to forgive them. When the others told him the good news, what did Thomas do? He laid down his conditions for believing: “Unless I see the Lord, I will not believe. Unless I get to insert my fingers into His wounds, I refuse to believe.”
He is not so much a Doubting Thomas as a Conditional Thomas. Many of us are not so much Doubting Thomases as we are Conditional ones.
Next: Why did our Lord choose that precise moment to empower them to forgive others? I mean, why give that power immediately after forgiving them? Why not wait until the Ascension? It would have made for a nice going-away present.
Whatever it is, it’s certainly not because the Lord had terrible timing, but because—again—He probably wants to teach us a very valuable lesson about forgiveness: It is when we’ve been forgiven that we can forgive others. It’s only the experience—and the memory—of being forgiven that’s ever going to make it possible for us to do what’s so difficult for many of us–to forgive others.
In other words, it’s so hard to forgive because it’s so easy to forget that we ourselves have been forgiven and that we are, in fact, still in need of forgiveness. It is only when we remember that we ourselves have been recipients of God’s mercy, as well as other people’s, that we will be moved—even shamed—to forgive those who have wronged and wounded us.
In other words, if we want to finally forgive, don’t forget.
Are there people you ought to consider forgiving this Sunday of Divine Mercy?