He got a bum rap! His name is Steve Bartman, from all accounts a pretty good guy, hard-worker, friendly, family man. And he loves the Chicago Cubs. But Steve Bartman will forever be known as the guy that prevented the Cubs from reaching the World Series in 2003; because he reached out to catch a foul ball that would have easily been caught by a Cub outfielder if he had not interfered. The incident turned a 3-0 Cub lead late in the game to a devastating 8-3 loss, resulting in no trip to the World Series. He became known far and wide by this one incident. He needed security to leave the stadium, he never has been back, even last year when the Cubs won the World Series, after 108 years. He lives a quiet life, avoiding any attention, because he lives every day with a bum rap!
We tend to do this to people; identify them by their faults, failures and mistakes. Shame on us. All of us are created in the image and likeness of God and Jesus came to live and die and rise for all of us. Why? Because all of us are invited to receive the rich gift of His Divine Mercy.
On this 2nd Sunday of Easter, when we bring the Octave of Easter to a close, and celebrate the Feast Day of Divine Mercy, we are reminded of bum raps but more importantly the love and mercy of Jesus. Our Gospel today is often called the Gospel of doubting Thomas. Sadly, that tells only a small part of the story. Jesus appears on the evening of Easter and shows Himself to the 10; Thomas was not present. The Apostles are incredulous with joy! Thomas, made aware of the visit of Jesus declares he wants proof. Thomas dared to doubt. I ask sincerely, how many of us would have responded exactly as Thomas did? In fact, the world today continues to ask for proof.
So Jesus appears again, one week later and Thomas is there. Should Jesus scold the doubting Thomas? He did not. He gently allowed Thomas to see and believe. Yes, Jesus reminded Thomas and all of us that blessed are those who believe without seeing, without demanding proof! Yet Jesus does not exlude from all of us, even those of us that battle with doubt when it comes to our faith, His Divine Mercy.
It would be most appropriate here to point out that this same doubting Thomas is also Saint Thomas. You see, with the mercy of Jesus, Thomas overcame any doubts, he declared My Lord and My God, and went on to evangelize and grow the Church from Jerusalem to India before he suffered martyrdom. We should always remember, we do not have to be identified by our weakest moments, but by those moments, blessed by grace and mercy, that make us disciples of Jesus.
We have been given the gift of this beautiful feast of Divine Mercy on this Sunday as well. By now, many of us should know the story of Jesus appearing to St. Faustina Kowalska and giving to her the responsibility of sharing the gift of Divine Mercy. The image of Divine Mercy, with the pale and red rays, symbolizing the blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus, is venerated in churches, chapels and shrines across the world, even here at St. Jane's. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a powerful prayer, so is the Novena attached to this devotion. And guided by beloved Pope, Saint John Paul II, we all should know that we can receive a special plenary indulgence if we fulfill the usual and special conditions as we celebrate Divine Mercy. Remember, a plenary indulgence wipes clean the temporal punishment for our sinfulness thanks to His mercy.
The usual conditions are Sacramental Confession(did you notice confession mentioned in today's Gospel?), receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. And for Divine Mercy we are called to attend a prayer service or devotion in any church, chapel or shrine, detached from the affection of sin. Another option is to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or in the Tabernacle, on Divine Mercy Sunday and recite one Our Father, the Creed and a prayer related to Divine Mercy, usually, Merciful Jesus, I trust in You.
My prayer today is that as many as possibly can will avail themselves to this devotion and this graced opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. All of us, as we continue on through Easter Season, can ask for His mercy often, and practice mercy to all those we know, all those we meet. Remember, nobody should be identified by a bad rap, a mistake, a shortcoming or a failure. Rather, practicing mercy because Jesus is merciful, let us see the good in our brother and sister, and spread the Kingdom, one life at a time. Can we do this? Yes, if we place our hope in Him; Merciful Jesus I Trust in You!!!