Today we celebrate Divine Mercy. But what is Divine Mercy, or rather, Who is Divine Mercy? Divine Mercy isn’t an abstract like the number 3 or the colour green or dryness; He is a Person. Please, let me clarify this. If you would like to know what Divine Mercy is, then you must know the God-man Jesus Christ. And today’s Gospel reading is uniquely qualified to instruct us on just how to do that – know Divine Mercy.
William Shakespeare wrote that, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise” (Troilus & Cressida). Meaning that a little bit of incredulity is healthy for both mind and body. So, let us first observe what our dear Saint Doubting Thomas had done. He had DOUBTED; he had not DISBELIEVED. His doubt is light years away from those disbelieving Jews who constantly demanded a sign from heaven. Thomas wanted to believe; those others did not.
Saint Thomas is the same man, you’ll recall, who said to the Apostles when Our Lord went to visit Mary, Martha and their deceased brother Lazarus, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). Saint Doubting Thomas wasn’t faithless, he was deliberate and slow to faith; and once his heart was set, he was in it to the death. I believe that the same might be said of the other Apostles, but we’ll never know this side of eternity because the rest of them were not tested in the same way Thomas was. The Ten cowered in their sequestered room for fear of the Jews when suddenly The Lord appeared and said, “Peace be with you,” they were able to see and believe, to hear and be confirmed.
Saint Doubting Thomas was also the man who, when our Lord had said, “Whither I go you know, and the way you know:” who replied, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:4-5). Our Lord proved Thomas saying; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him” (ibid).
Saint Doubting Thomas because of his incredulity is decisive in the revelation of our faith – the revelation of Him who is Divine Mercy. His doubt is the precursor of Saint Augustine’s, “I believe in order that I may understand,” and Saint Anselm’s, “Faith seeking understanding.” Our Lord commands us and all mankind through Thomas; “do not be faithless, but believing… Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:27-9). Likewise, we all – all mankind – is obligated to reply with Thomas; “My Lord and my God!” because, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But not because we are coerced to believe but because we are compelled to believe – compelled by the true facts.
We are not called to “blind faith” (whatever “blind faith” means) in Him Who is Divine Mercy. We believe because we were, in Saint Paul’s words; “foreknown, predestined, called, justified and, in the consummation, glorified” (Rom 8:28-30). This is the function of The Divine Mercy’s perfect intellect in the boundless spectrum of man’s free will. It is an impenetrable mystery – we can’t say exactly what it is, but we can say certain things about what it is not. It is a mystery that defeats – to draw an analogy from science – the ultimate and universal Second Law of Thermodynamics concerning entropy which tells us that order degenerates to chaos. Each of us believes in Divine Mercy because He has uniquely communicated with each of us, often in ways inexplicable though nevertheless true and real, that He is God. We are transported from utter chaos to perfect order by a miracle of The Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy is not stymied by the inventions, fabrications, disbelief, science-so-called and cruelty of men. Divine Mercy triumphs, if for the mere fact, that He outlasts us all along with all the we have and ever will have. At the heat death of the Universe or when quantum theory’s “false vacuum” collapses to its lowest energy state, there will still be Divine Mercy.
On the positive side, we know that Divine Mercy reveals itself in perfect truth, goodness and beauty. These three (truth, goodness and beauty) are quantifiable – they are not, as degenerate culture would have us believe, “in the eye of the beholder” unless that beholder is God. We tend to minimize the function of these three attributes of The Divine Mercy in our desire to be sensitive to differing tastes, cultures and opinions of mere men. Truth, goodness and beauty are to constructs of human genius; they are markers of the Divine.
When Saint Doubting Thomas beheld the Lord’s wounds in His hands, feet and side, he was looking at truth, goodness and beauty made flesh – Divine Mercy in all its glistering, transfigured glory. He saw what all creation was meant to be. In that moment, he experienced all that the Church through her liturgies keeps timelessly timely. The action of the Easter Vigil captures it all in a nutshell: we journey in that one night from creatio ex nihilo to the heavenly vision of, “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10). This is Divine Mercy.
Do you sometimes doubt God as Thomas did? Are you willing to prove God; and I’m not talking about unbelief like those Pharisees who always clambered for a sign? But are you willing with Saint Doubting Thomas, Saint Augustine, Saint Anselm and a host of others, to “Believe, in order that, God can help your unbelief?” (Mk 9:24). Are you ready to trust in the Divine Mercy?
Before concluding, I offer this warning.
There are most assuredly doubts that are sinful.
- Doubts that arise out of vain curiosity and silliness which make light of the deep mysteries of God and His Creation…
- Doubts driven by arrogant self-conceit and delight in the intellectual game of posing something original for the mere sake of originality…
- Doubts of a hard heart whose conscience accuses it of guiltiness, but refuses to acknowledge, confess and make restitution for its sin… and
- Doubts like those of the Pharisees whose resolution it was to NEVER believe, and who’s doubts were only preludes to further insult and prevaricate against The Divine Mercy.
Such doubts are grievous and heinous sins, and when we indulge in them we are in danger of hell fire.
But if your doubts are not of frivolity, arrogance, hardness of heart or disbelief, then don’t treat such doubts, if you have them, as sins. These doubts are not sins. Rather they are perplexities along the narrow way; and while doubts can challenge our hold on God, we should never allow them to let us think God has let go His hold of us.
To think that every doubt is of itself a sin is to mistake The Divine Mercy’s love; because God has promised that; “No temptation [will overtake us] that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let [us] be tempted beyond [our] strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that [we] may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). Instead of casting out doubt we should seek to understand why such doubt exists. Doubts are (and here think of the Blessed Virgin’s perplexity when visited by the Archangel), often the birth-pangs of clearer light ready to dawn in our minds. They are how we grow in faith and knowledge of things heavenly; and such doubts can be the fiery trials by which The Divine Mercy burns up any wood, hay, or straw (1 Cor 3:12), that we have built upon the foundation of Christ, and provides the opportunity for us to build rather with gold, silver and precious stones.
Doubts may distress us, but they cannot destroy us, for we are in the hands of God. As the case of Saint Thomas demonstrates, in time, Christ will provide the resolution to our doubts. God does not require us to believe what we do not believe – God cannot lie and He demands we never lie, even to ourselves. Nor does God require we believe through the force of will, which is little more than an act of self-deception – another lie.
Above all, commit your soul to the “Faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19) with full confidence in The Divine Mercy’s ability to “[call] you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). If you consecrate yourself to obeying God’s truth, goodness and beauty – incorporating yourself into The Divine Mercy – then God will do the rest. But don’t make the commitment unless you are serious about it – we are to be either hot or cold, lukewarmness is repugnant to God, and He takes our commitments seriously – there are consequences to our every thought, word and deed. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties [and doubts] on him [as Saint Thomas did], for he cares about you” (1 Pet 5:6)