Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!” (Ps 117:24). For eight days already we have celebrated a single day: the perfect and unending Day of the Risen Christ, the great and glorious Pasch of the Lord! For eight days now the splendour of “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8) has flooded the Church with light and joy.
In the early Church, on this Second Sunday of Easter, the newly-baptized would conclude their week-long celebration of new life by putting aside the white garments received at Baptism. And Mother Church, addressing herself to them, sings in today’s introit: “As you are new-born children, all your craving must be for the pure milk of the spirit so that you may thrive upon it to the health of your souls” (1 P 2:2). Today’s glorious Introit is a key text for us. It unlocks all the rest. It is the voice of a Mother addressing her newborn infants. So important is this text that, in ancient times, today was known as Quasimodo Sunday, from the first word of the Introit: “After the manner of newborn infants, alleluia, desire the pure milk of the Word, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (1 P 2:2).
Pure Spiritual Milk
“All your craving must be for pure spiritual milk” (1 P 2:2). This craving for the Word of God is a sign of spiritual health. Where do we go for this pure, spiritual milk of the Word if not to the breasts of Mother Church, to the Word of God given us in the liturgy day by day? This is why the faithful of the primitive Church used to “meet by common consent in the Portico of Solomon” (Ac 5: 12). This is why we assemble, Sunday after Sunday, not in Solomon’s portico, but in the living Temple of the new Solomon, the Body of Christ, the Church, and in “the shadow of Peter” (cf. Ac 5:15). Every time the Word is proclaimed, sung, repeated, preached, and prayed, we are nourished with pure spiritual milk. It is the corporate hearing of the Word that fashions us into a company with “one heart and one soul” (Ac 4:32).
Ministry of Divine Mercy
The Christ of today’s second reading is the Crucified, the Pierced One out of Whose open Heart flows a torrent of water and of blood. Priests are called, in a special way, to remain beneath the glorious Cross of Christ together with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, the other holy women, and the disciple whom He loved. The priest must make of his own heart an open chalice held aloft to receive the torrent gushing from the pierced side of Christ, that not a drop of it be lost. All that flows from the side of Christ must be received by the Church in the person of the priest and then distributed lavishly, applied with tenderness to every spiritual brokenness and wound. This is the spiritual ministry of Divine Mercy.
His Glorious Wounds
The Christ of the Gospel, standing in the midst of His disciples (cf. Jn 20:19), displays His wounds to them. Saint John makes no mention of the radiance of His glory; he alludes only to His wounds. Why? Because for Saint John the Theologian, the glory of the Risen Christ shines forth from His wounds, fulfilling the words of the prophet Habakuk: “His brightness was like the light, rays flashed from His hand; and there He veiled His power” (Hab 3:4).
Imprisoned by fear, struggling with temptations against faith and hope, the disciples tremble behind closed and bolted doors when suddenly Jesus is there standing in their midst. “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19), He says. His first gift is a gift of peace. In imparting the gift of peace, Jesus showed the disciples his hands and his side. The glorious wounds of the Risen Christ authenticate his identity. This is the same Jesus who was crucified. This is the same Jesus whom we contemplated during Holy Week, “without form or comeliness that we should look at Him, despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3-6). The risen Jesus remains the wounded one, and, as Saint Peter says, “by his wounds we are healed” (1 P 2:24). This was our prayer at the very beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil last Saturday night: “By his wounds holy and glorious may Christ guard and protect us.”
The Paschal Candle, placed next to the ambo, is a symbol of the Risen Christ marked with his five wounds, shedding his light over the Scriptures and illumining their proclamation. Just as truly as He was in the upper room with his disciples, the Risen One is here among us. He gives us the same peace. He shows us the same wounds, shining with healing mercy, a mercy that penetrates all our fears.
Peace Be With You
Jesus says to the disciples a second time, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). This is no vain repetition. It is a repetition in the power of the Spirit, the very kind of repetition that, even to the present, is intrinsic to the liturgy of the Church. Then He adds, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:22) Christ’s mission does not end with his death and resurrection. His mission is continued in the children that, until the end of time, will be born of his Bride, the Church. The Church assembled by the Word, the Church united around the altar, is a Church sent forth. The Church is the community of those who are nourished with the pure spiritual milk of the Word. The Church is the community of those who have experienced the mercy of the Risen Christ and known his peace.
The Balm of Divine Mercy
The Church is a community of wounded persons who have contemplated the glorious wounds of the Risen Christ. Our wounds are the means by which the mercy of the Risen Christ penetrates into the secret places of the soul. Those who have no wounds, or those who pretend to have none, shut out the healing mercy of Christ. A certain kind of virtue — self-sufficient and hard — renders one impenetrable to the balm of Divine Mercy. Those who know themselves to be wounded and who expose their wounds to the radiance of Christ’s glorious wounds, experience the power of his resurrection. These alone are sent forth by Christ to carry on his work of healing mercy in the world.
The Gospel recounts a second apparition of the risen Christ, this one a week after the first. Again a Sunday evening; again the locked doors. Again Jesus comes and stands in their midst. Again the gift from the heart: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:26). And then to Thomas, torn between the desire to believe and persistent doubts, He says, “Take your finger and probe my hands. Put your hand into my side” (Jn 20:27). That is to say, “Put your hand into my heart, Thomas. Touch what is most intimate in me, or rather allow me to touch what is most intimate in you, that you may not persist in your unbelief, but become full of faith.” These words of Jesus are given us, designedly, as today’s Communion Antiphon, to accompany the procession of those who, full of adoration, approach the wounds of Christ’s glorious Body.
The Eucharist: An Infusion of Divine Mercy
The wounds of disbelief are healed when we touch the glorious body of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the healing of doubt, of fear, and of hopelessness. The Eucharist, like the sacrament of Penance that is wonderfully ordered to it, is an infusion of Divine Mercy.
This was the experience of Saint Faustina Kowalska, the humble woman, chosen by the Risen Christ in the 1930’s to recall the Church to trust in Divine Mercy. The icon of the merciful Christ by which Saint Faustina sought to draw the wounded, the doubting and the fearful to Divine Mercy is, in fact, a depiction of today’s gospel, a way of expressing exactly what Saint Benedict enjoins on us in Chapter Four of the Holy Rule: “Never to despair of the Mercy of God” (RB 4:74).
Jesus, I Trust in You
Each of us is invited to drink deeply today of the Water and the Blood and, like Thomas, to probe Christ’s glorious wounds, to penetrate even to his Sacred Heart. Then, will the prayer of Saint Faustina — Jesus, I trust in you! — well up from deep within all of us. Then will the cry of Thomas become our own: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).