Monday, April 20, 2009


It is interesting to me that the Psalm for Divine Mercy Sunday (also called Thomas Sunday and Quasimodo Sunday) was Psalm 118. What is interesting about this Psalm is that it contains the Hebrew word chesed, which is so variously translated. Sometimes it is loving-kindness, sometimes mercy (as in the KJV, the Douay and the NAB), sometimes love (as in the TEV) and sometimes steadfast love (as in the RSV) and so on.

The appropriateness of certain translation choices is not the aim of this post though. The idea that I wish to discuss is that this word is the focal point around which the other three readings revolve.

Consider the first reading (Acts 4:32-35). Now this passage has been used a lot by some to impute a modern left-wing context on a first century occurrence. I think that completely misses the point. The earliest community of believers wasn't socialist or Marxist or even proto examples of these. No, the way we are to understand this passage is completely in the light of chesed. They lived this mercy, this love. That is what it meant to do so. They shared of their provender. They shared of themselves. Not out of political will, but out of devotion to this very Godly love.

And thus the Epistle (1 Jn 5:1-6) is on point. Consider that this brief little snippet is a very dense exegesis on the word chesed. The first and second verses naturally flow into one another. And as you can see, that is the pericope from Acts acted out this Johanine exegesis. But for John this has more implications. If we truly love God and His children, then we will not just passively love them but go out and actively conquer the world with and in Faith. John ties the pericope together with the last verse, which makes it clear that this is part and parcel of our baptismal mission. The waters of baptism didn't just wash us clean, they conferred upon us a mission to go out and make disciples of all the world ... for love.

And finally we come to the Doubting Thomas pericope (Jn 20:19-31). It is not hard to see then that this is a perfect example of Divine Mercy, when we understand that word to be same as in Psalm 118. Christ isn't in this story like the Roman spectators holding a thumb up or down, passively exercising mercy in the sense of withholding wrath. Instead, Christ comes back to Thomas and subjects Himself to the humiliating and degrading spectacle of Thomas' scientific/empirical analysis. Thomas performs an experiment on Christ, and Christ not only does not balk but practically encourages it. But He also mildly, and it must be said lovingly, rebukes Thomas. It is good that he believes for having seen and touched, but so much better for those who will not or did not have the opportunity Thomas had and still believed. Thomas rightly acknowledges Christ's Divinity, but I put it to you it was because Thomas realised that his empirical analysis was unnecessary, rather he was moved by the Divine Mercy He was shown.

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