In all of our lives there are people who have locked the doors to the risen Christ; who have hardened their hearts to God’s love. We too may have done this in different periods of our lives. When we were children, we may have hidden our faith away out of fear of being made fun of in school. The apostles hid themselves, “out of fear of the Jews.” As adults, we may hide our faith away at work or even with friends and family. This is not good because our faith will weaken. Even the worst sinners have walked this path; their hearts have become hardened; they have locked whatever gift of faith God had given them away. But there is one thing that can pass through these walls and resurrect their faith and their life.
The Gospel shares with us how the faith of the apostles was revived. It was an encounter with the risen Christ, but not only this; the Gospel says it was through seeing the wounded Christ alive again, that they come to believe again. If a man could have been wounded in such a way and still live; this is what convinced them; this is what resurrected their faith. Christ then breathes on them the gift of his very own Spirit and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Christ is inviting us to live as he lived. If we do, we too will be able to pass through walls people have constructed. We too will have wounds to show, and yet also through his life in us, still be alive.
From the life of Christ, the Church has discerned fourteen works of mercy. These are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. These are the corporal or bodily works of mercy. Then there are the spiritual works of mercy; works of our soul: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, and pray for the living and the dead.
If we live this life of mercy, we will receive wounds. If we are ministering to the poor and the needy, we will experience sadness over these difficult circumstances, and yet because of Christ’s spirit is within us, we will experience his joy over our willingness to help. If we are bearing wrongs patiently, we will become open to abuse; and yet we will grow in closeness to our God who bears our own wrongs. There is something about practicing the works of mercy which allows us to pass through doors people have locked. There is something about having wounds to show for it, while still being alive in Christ’s peace and joy, that proves to others the existence and love of God.
When we practice the works of mercy, people have an encounter with the risen Lord. This encounter helps all exclaim as St. Thomas did, “My Lord and my God.” Let us be willing to image Christ’s mercy to all, so that the faith of every human being, even our own, may continually be revived and strengthened.