By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
Frequently someone has confessed to me, “Father, I know that I am supposed to forgive them, but I just can’t.” In their words I can hear the pain that they still carry. In their words I can hear their need and desire to be healed. Just like the apostles must have heard the cries of the sick, the blind and the lame as they gathered in Solomon’s portico. Sometimes physical, but always emotional and spiritual, the need for healing is universal.
Our Gospel story on this Divine Mercy Sunday is the account of the first two times the resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples in the upper room. The first time he comes to them and shows them his credentials: the wounds that he bore. And he sees the fear of the disciples and he offers them healing: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I send you.” And Jesus gives them his Spirit.
Somehow that gift fails to reach the hearts of the disciples, because one week later they are still the scared and hiding followers who had abandoned Jesus. So Jesus tries again to heal them. “Peace be with you,” he says. Again he presents his wounds and invites them to examine them closely. It is as if he says: Look, I know you need a healing liberation from your fear, because I too am wounded. Believe in me and receive the healing spirit that I offer.
Thomas declares his belief, but will his faith come with courage to come out of hiding? What will it take to transform scared disciples into courageous apostles who become the preachers and healers at Solomon’s portico?
During our celebration of Eucharist on this Divine Mercy Sunday, as we always do, we will repeatedly go to God and ask for mercy. First it will be the refrain of: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.” Later we will pray as we have been instructed: “…forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” Still not finished, we will a third time confess our unworthiness and ask for God’s healing mercy. It seems that only then do we hear the promise of peace and mercy and have the courage to accept the invitation to come to the altar.
It’s okay. A patient and persevering Christ keeps coming to us, saying: Peace be with you! This is my body and this is my blood. Come and receive the grace and mercy that flows forth from me to give you life. Allow my lifeblood of grace and mercy to flow through you to all. Come into communion with me and I will send you to be in communion with one another.
God forgives us again and again because we fall into fear again and again. Christ comes to us where we are: offering mercy, offering peace. When our heart becomes full of God’s mercy, then we are ready to go forth and share the grace of mercy with others.
A former moderator general of the worldwide congregation, Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., continues to minister in service to the Community. Currently he resides in Chicago and is the interim director of advanced formation.