I was talking to an atheist recently, and of course, he expressed his disbelief in God and his disbelief in Jesus. So, I said, “If Jesus were to come to you and you saw him, would you believe?” Do you know what he said? No. So, even if Jesus showed himself to him would he believe. I love Saint Thomas, often known as Saint Thomas, the Doubter, because he comes to make the most splendid profession of faith when he sees Jesus and says, “My Lord and my God!” So, Thomas is a little demanding in the scripture passage. He misses out on the first time that Jesus appears to the disciples because he wasn’t there. So, the disciples had seen Jesus, and they were telling Thomas about it, and he got obstinate, and he said, “Unless I see Him and put my hand into His side and my fingers into His wound, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
This is the amazing part about Jesus. Thomas is demanding, and Jesus, instead of saying, “Forget about him if he is demanding all that, I am not going to do anything for him.” Jesus allowed and invited Thomas to do what he needed to believe. He comes through the door into their midst; He goes up to Thomas, and He says to Thomas, “Thomas, take your hand and put it into My side. Take your fingers and put it into My hands and do not be unbelieving but believe.” (John 20:27)
Thomas does this, takes his hand, and puts it into His side, his fingers into His wound. He sees Jesus. He touches Him. He puts his hands into Him, and he sees and believes and makes that profession, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
What I think is gracious about this is that Jesus is willing to do what Thomas needs to believe. Jesus is ready to approve Thomas. Thomas is demanding and begging, and Jesus says, “OK, if this is what you need to believe, I am going to do it.”
I want you to think about yourself too. What would it take for you to honestly believe in Jesus, knowing that He is willing to do it for you? He will do anything that it takes for you to believe in Him.
Today, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, and you see this image of Jesus, which is the image that Faustina saw. Faustina was discerning whether or not to go into the religious life to become a nun. Her parents were discouraging her. Her parents did not want her to do it. Her parents wanted her to get married and have a family, and they demanded that she put it out of her mind. One evening she was at a dance, like a reception, and as she was dancing, all of a sudden, she stopped, and she saw Jesus. Jesus opens His hands to her, and she sees Him as the crucified Lord. He has the crown of thorns. He is bleeding. His wounds are there, and He says to Faustina, “How long must I wait for you?” He tells me how long must I wait for you to do My will to enter the convent. At that moment, she then knows that this is what she must do with all of her heart. So, for Faustina to enter the convent, it took Jesus appearing to her and saying, “How long must I wait?”
When she entered the convent, she would have many times when Jesus would appear to her. This image was the most memorable time when He appeared to her so much that He asked that she had commissioned a painting to be made of this so people would know of His love and mercy.
In the image of the painting, you can see that Jesus’s right hand is extended up. This gesture is the same motion we know whenever a priest blesses his people. He holds up his hand, making the sign of the cross, either to bless at the end of Mass or to absolve them of their sins at the end of Confession. We also see with His left hand He is holding His hand to His heart, and we see pouring forth from His heart the images of blood and water that He wants to shower His people with grace. So, He asks Faustina to have this image of Him painted. The funny thing is, she worked with this artist for six months, this painter. Every time he would paint something, she would walk up to him and say, “No! It’s not beautiful enough. It’s not Him!” He would have to go back to the drawing board so much that she cried because he couldn’t express the beauty of what she saw with Jesus after six months. Jesus finally said to her, “It’s close enough. Use this image of me as long as people can see me; the devotion to the Divine Mercy Image will inspire them.”
When I was in the seminary, I made my first eight-day retreat, and during the whole retreat, I was praying for the grace to know God the Father’s love. My Spiritual Director, Fr. Bob Welsch, a Jesuit in our diocese and who used to be the president of St. Ignatius and a holy man, also had this real personal relationship with Jesus where he could see and talk to Him. He would, out loud, talk to Jesus in front of me like Jesus was sitting next to him, and he would have full-on conversations with Him. I would think, “How do you just talk to Jesus and have Him respond to you?” He said, “It will happen for you.” The grace that he asked me to pray for was to know God the Father, to know God the Father’s love. So, during this retreat, I prayed every day and was trying to have that same grace, that same miracle to talk to Jesus and hear Him tell me what God the Father was like. Day one went by, and I heard nothing and saw nothing. Day two went by, and I heard nothing and saw nothing. Day three went by, and I panicked like, “Jesus, you have to do something for me.” On day four, something unique happened. I was driving my pickup truck, and I thought, “Alright, if this priest who is so holy and so down to earth can talk to Jesus and have a conversation with Him, I will try.” So, I imagined that Jesus was next to me in my pickup truck.
I remember this because it was the first time I experienced this. I said to Jesus, “Alright, I will try this. I will talk to you, and I am going to talk out loud, and I am going to hope that you might respond.” The question that the priest asked me to pray with was to ask Jesus what the Father was like. I finally said, “I am going to do it.” I turned around, and I did not see anything there. I said to Jesus, “What is the Father like?” I remember turning my head and driving, and then I turned back, saw Jesus, and saw His face, and especially saw His eyes. When I asked, “What is the Father like?” His eyes lit up. His face was beaming, and He looked at me, “Michael, I have been waiting all your life for you to ask Me this question. The whole reason I came into the world is to tell you what the Father was like.” He began to speak, and He said to me, “The Father is so gentle with you. The Father is so kind. The Father is so merciful.” He went on and on, giving me all these descriptions of what the Father was like.
After that conversation with Jesus, I felt such joy and peace, hope, and wonder that I now knew that God the Father was not this demanding judge. He was not this person waiting for me to mess up so that He could punish me, but God the Father was love and mercy. When I got back from my truck, I went back to where I was, and I made a Holy Hour, and a little light bulb went off in my head that Jesus was speaking to me the words of Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. Only He was saying who love is God the Father. God the Father is patient. God the Father is kind. God the Father believes in me. God the Father hopes in me. God the Father endures with me. God the Father, in His love, will never fail me.
Many of you know, I have a great devotion to The Prodigal Father, God the Father, but that is the message of Divine Mercy. Jesus wanted Faustina to tell the whole world of God’s mercy.
God is willing to do anything that He can for you, reveal Himself to you, and let you of His love and His mercy for you. Just as St. Thomas needed to touch His wounds and put his hands on His side; just as Faustina needed Him to appear to her, I needed Jesus to tell me who the Father is like; he is willing to do whatever it is you need. The same thing can be said of you. Do not be unbelieving but believe.
I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to think about that. What do you need in your life to honestly believe in God? What do you need Jesus to do for you? So that you can believe in Him and no longer be unbelieving but believe. What do you need to experience from God as your Father? What could you ask of the Holy Spirit? Because God is willing to stoop down to our level.
He was willing to become a newborn baby so that we would never fear Him. Just as He is ready to come to us in the Eucharist in bread and wine, His body and blood and soul and divinity, he is willing to do whatever it takes for you to believe.
So, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, I invite you to ask Him for that miracle of belief.