Sunday of Divine Mercy
Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-2
Revelation 1:9-11A, 12-13, 17-19
This is Divine Mercy Sunday, where in the Gospel reading, we see an example of the highest form of mercy in action followed by incredible joy. John vividly captures the scene: Jesus’ disciples, still grieving about his brutal punishment and death, fearing for their own lives. They had been told by Mary Magdalen that Jesus lives, but did not grasp what that would mean. The understanding of what was happening seemed way beyond their reach. Fear caused them to stay locked in a room listening, afraid of every noise. One of them, Thomas, was so distressed he could not bear to be with his friends.
Suddenly, Jesus miraculously appeared before them and spoke those calming, comforting words, “Peace be with you.” Sharing not only words, but visible signs of his nail-scarred hands and lance-pierced side.
At this point does he revile them for their cowardly acts of abandoning him? Does he single out Peter for his denial? Does he express bitter disappointment and put them under probation until they earned his trust again? Would the apostolic mission be compromised so that more suitable apostles could be chosen?
No, none of this came from the Lords lips; only words of comfort, peace, forgiveness, and a confidence revealed by confirming their commission. “He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'”
In this most trying and intensely difficult time where he could have called them out on their actions, Divine Mercy was freely given.
At that moment Jesus established the great Sacrament of mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the moment the disciples should have paid for their sinfulness. He gave them the power and responsibility to forgive sins, and gave us a chance to experience his divine mercy through them.
We need God’s Divine Mercy and its corresponding joy as of today, tomorrow, next week. With this gift we can center our thoughts and actions more on forgiveness rather than fault, mercy rather than criticism, on love and compassion instead of finger-pointing. We can give more than our share, and offer hope, joy and encouragement rather than minimal effort and negativity.
Like Jesus’ disciples, you and I are imperfect, yet we are called from what we are to become what we were meant to be.
Sometimes as we sit in the pew and listen to someone at the ambo about our directive to love those who hate us, show mercy to those who have harmed us, and to live lives focused on others instead of our selves. These seem like something so distant and out of reach; like we just can’t seem to get there. We are like the apostles hiding in that room, afraid of what might happen if we are to go out into the world and live lives the way Jesus taught us. The thing is, we do not have to reach for it. As Catholics, we just have to put our hands out and receive. Jesus came to the disciples just as he comes to us Sunday at Mass, in word and sacrament, breathing upon us his Divine Mercy, sending us forth as he sent his disciples to fulfill our commission, and sharing his love and mercy to all those around us.
By: Deacon Jeffery Cieslewicz, Parishes of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, North Huntingdon & Immaculate Conception, Irwin