Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. (John 20:23)
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. This name was given to the Sunday after Easter by Pope John Paul II.
You may be familiar with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which has become increasingly popular. This day stands at the end of a novena to the Divine Mercy and one of the practices on this day is the practice of individual sacramental confession.
We associate the sacrament of reconciliation, confession, penance, especially with Lent, don’t we? Lent is the time, surely for us to creep to confession, queue in the church, sneak into the dark box for a few minutes of awkwardness, the mention of a few routine sins and a lot of what-I-cannot-now-remembers. It’s an important duty, but an uncomfortable one.
But today’s Gospel reminds us of something that we should always have known, that the forgiveness of sins is first and foremost an Easter blessing. Before the resurrection, it is Christ who dispenses the forgiveness of God - here in this Gospel as we are clearly told - gives this wonderful gift to the Church.
So when we fall from grace, when we say the harsh word, omit the important duty, are thoughtless or greedy or dishonest or unloving, and when we acknowledge our guilt and our failings, the Church can free us from our sins in the power of Christ. This is what is meant by salvation and redemption. This is what is meant by the victory of the cross and the power of the resurrection.
Yet too often - like Thomas - we think we know better. We hide or excuse our sins. We shrink from recognising our need of God. We hesitate in approaching the Church, and if we are reluctant in this way, we remain in the narrowness of vision, and the hardness of hard and the coldness of faith which sin brings.
Rejoice and praise God. Raise your hearts. Utter with Thomas, My Lord and My God - because through his resurrection, Christ has given the Church the power to release us from our sins.