Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy

Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This celebration was instituted by John Paul II in the year 2000. He did so in response to the visions given to St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina was a Polish nun who lived in the early 1900s and was given a vision of the Divine Mercy by Jesus that she was directed to spread to the whole world. Jesus said to Faustina, "Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God." This day is also the end of the Octave of Easter, this is the 8th day on which we celebrate the very day of Easter, not as something that is already over and done with, but as a reality that continues to endure in our lives. So it is right that on this Sunday we celebrate the Divine Mercy, because it is only by the fact of Jesus's death and resurrection that we can be sure that mercy is indeed God's greatest attribute.

During the Triduum, we focused intently on the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Resurrection during the night of Easter, and on each day we kind of took a magnifying glass to the events of the day to really pray with it and experience it. Now, a week later, we can draw back and take kind of a big picture overview of the whole Passion, Death, and Resurrection event, looking at it all especially through the lens of Divine Mercy.

The scriptures tell us God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and love has a couple aspects: love entails justice and mercy. But mercy is there first, last, and every step along the way. One preface we have during Ordinary Time says to God, "In goodness you created man and, when he was justly condemned, in mercy you redeemed him, through Christ our Lord." Death was what we experienced in justice for our sins, eternal life is what we have been given because of God's mercy. We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday just one week after Easter because it is only by God's merciful love that we have been redeemed through Jesus' death and resurrection.

So with God's Divine Mercy in our minds, let's take a look at our readings. We always have the story of Thomas on this Sunday, and we've tried to interpret poor Thomas every which way, from letting him go down in history as doubting Thomas to trying to make him the patron saint of scientific empirical evidence, every year about a week after Easter, we try again to make sense of Thomas the Apostle.

Well this last week I read another article that tries to make sense of Thomas. This short article proposed, entirely in jest, that there is a lost version of John's gospel that explain why Thomas didn't believe. This article proposes a scene between Thomas and the ten apostles where Thomas says, "So you've seen the Lord?" They say yeah. "And he breathed the Holy Spirit on you?" Yeah. "Told you to forgive sins?" Yeah. "And that was all right here in this room?" Yeah. "Well, if you've been sent, then why ain't you went?"

This author makes a good point. Jesus has been raised, but the ten apostles are acting like he is still dead. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit, he gave them authority to forgive sins, and seven days later they're still in the upper room, not spreading the gospel, not forgiving sins. As far as Thomas could tell from the example of their lives, Jesus was still dead.

But Thomas and the other apostles, after this second encounter with Jesus, finally understood what a gift of mercy the resurrection was, and then they started to spread it. In fact, our tradition tells us that Thomas went further than all the others and he went all the way to India to spread the gospel of Jesus's resurrection.

So for ourselves, we have to make sure that the Resurrection, that the Divine Mercy of Jesus is truly alive in our lives. It took the apostles a long time to start acting like Jesus was risen, and until they did, no one was going to be convinced. The resurrection had to become a reality in their lives, it had to inspire them to a new boldness, before anyone could be convinced by their words.

It's that reality that we see in the first reading. The first reading tells us of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. They shared everything such that there was no needy person among them. That was how they lived the resurrection. They reasoned that if God has shown me such infinite mercy, such Divine Mercy, how can I help but show mercy to those around me?

So who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if you and I don't live like it? Who is going to be convinced he's alive if we live our same old lives? Who is going to be convinced that he's alive if we only come to church when it's convenient, if we only come together to worship the Risen Lord when it's convenient? Who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if we bicker, if we gossip, if we let conflict overrun our Christian community? Who is going to be convinced that Jesus is alive if we don't show his mercy to each other. My friends, if we don't let the resurrection of Jesus inflame our entire lives, then we only help to create a world of doubting Thomases, we create a world of people who can't believe in Jesus because those who preach him with their words don't show it with their lives. Jesus has to be the motivating factor behind every aspect of our lives.

Let the reality of the resurrection, the reality of the Divine Mercy, be present in your lives, such that the world may know the reason for your hope. Let the Divine Mercy of Jesus be the reason for your hope, and the reason for every good thing that you do.

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