Image: First Communion Celebration, Paulatuk
I remember the days when you could walk through the local mall in your town and find mobile photography studios offering to capture the perfect moment in the life of a growing family or newly engaged couple.
Surrounding the island of filtered lights, tri-pod mounted cameras, reflective umbrellas and scenic backdrops; you would find wooden easels featuring portfolios of the photographer’s best work. These examples would always be of striking couples holding hands in a sunlit forest, robed college graduates clutching newly minted diplomas and fashion coordinated families cuddling newborn babies, everyone looking at the camera with big gleaming smiles.
While those pictures might be stunning to look at hanging over the mantle of the family home we know in our hearts that they do not bear much resemblance to the reality of life which is quite often less than perfect. Those pictures, while a credit to the photographer’s skill, don’t reflect; the ups and downs of young love, the anxiety provoking and financially draining years of academic life nor the sleepless nights and endless days in the lives of new parents.
In the first reading today we find the perfect portrait of the early Christian community and it is described in glowing details that seem difficult to imitate.
“They sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed…they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone.”
While such ideals certainly were valued by the early Christian community and perhaps are even lauded today as goals worthy of our admiration, the nirvana described here was not destined to last for long and soon, as in every human family, the messiness of real life settled in.
But where would we be without our less-than-perfect families who always manage to put the fun in dysfunctional? In our Christian family, though we count them as heroes, every one of the disciples had their flaws. In today’s Gospel we reflect on St. Thomas or doubting Thomas as he has come to be known. It wasn’t enough that ten of his closest friends vouched that they had seen the risen Jesus. Rational to a fault, Thomas insisted that he had to see for himself and even touch the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion or he would not believe.
The wonder of it is that Jesus indulged him. When he appeared in the presence of Thomas, Jesus made a point of letting Thomas put his fingers into his wounds so that he would be convinced. The beauty of the Christian portrait is not the perfection of the family but it is in the perfect love of the Lord. Or what Sr. Faustina Kowalska would refer to as the, “Divine Mercy of Jesus”.
These days everyone has a camera in their pocket or purse and every instant of our lives can be captured whether it’s a moment we really wish to remember or even those we maybe prefer not. In these days of long memory where the stain of mistakes made can haunt someone for a lifetime we have this feast of Divine Mercy which celebrates Jesus telling his less than perfect followers,
“As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”
Jesus, understanding and full of mercy and compassion, not only forgives us and loves us despite our weakness and failings but has also given the Church the power to forgive all who come to her with contrite hearts.