DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
2nd Sunday of Easter
12th April, 2015
Acts 4:32-35; 1 Jn 5:1-6 & Jn 20:19-31.
This Sunday following Easter has always been the Feast of Mercy, however since 2001, the designated title, Divine Mercy Sunday, expands the theological significance of the Octave of Easter and deepens its meaning. We see this feast as the convergence of all the mysteries and graces of Holy Week and Easter Week.
We are reminded of the words of Pope St John Paul II: “It unveils the truth that the Paschal Mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of (Divine) Mercy, and that the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of Mercy, its living sign … (and) its inexhaustible source.”
The Gospel, which has just been proclaimed, helps us to grasp the full sense and value of this gift. The Evangelist St John makes us share in the emotion felt by the Apostles in their meeting with Christ after His Resurrection. Our attention focuses on the gesture of the Jesus, who transmits to the fearful, astounded disciples the mission of being ministers of Divine Mercy.
He shows them His hands and His side, which bear the marks of the Passion, and tells them: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21). Immediately afterwards, "He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' " (Jn 20:22-23). Jesus entrusted to them the gift of "forgiving sins."
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells of life a little later in the early Christian community and confirms ‘With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus’.
However, this gospel today is one of the most well-known, discussed, and appreciated—the meeting of the Risen Lord with St Thomas. This relates to the greatest celebration of faith, and we encounter the most famous story of doubt: of Thomas, who demands proof before he will believe.
In this narrative we see the disciples move from fear to joy, seclusion to mission, absence to presence, disbelief to faith, mere existence to new life, as the Holy Spirit came upon them. We can see the appropriateness of the sacrament of reconciliation in our lives as disciples of the Risen Lord, as we commemorate Divine Mercy Sunday –as a way to highlight the Mercy of God that is offered to our world through our Crucified and Risen Lord.
And this is something to remember: after the apostle Thomas adamantly, even angrily, expressed his doubt, Christ didn’t dismiss him. He didn’t write him off. Christ came back. He gave Thomas another chance, and offered him the gift of faith – and Thomas, overwhelmed and awed, accepted.
Christ does that with all of us. When we least expect it, he will break through locked doors of the human heart. He will find us, in our fear and uncertainty. He understands our misgivings, our hurts, our infirmities and weaknesses. He knows only too well the human condition. As Thomas discovered, he wants to give us another opportunity.
That, too, is part of the message of this Sunday, when we embrace the power and beauty of God’s forgiveness. It is the Sunday in which we remind ourselves of God’s tender mercies. Furthermore, we well remember Jesus message to St. Faustina: "Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy". This is a time for fulfilling the promise of the Resurrection, the glorious hope of Easter.
Jesus’ response to St Thomas, after he recognized Him as ‘My Lord and my God’, has a mysterious fascination that must relate not so much to the disciples—those who ‘have seen’—but rather to those, like us, who were added to their number afterwards. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’ (Jn 20:29)
Like St Thomas, Christ calls us to live our lives so that the witness that we give will proclaim His Resurrection. We know that we have met the Risen One and we have recognized Him! Let us pray to be open to God’s tender mercies — that we might say with the joy of Easter discovery, and with the wonder of St. Thomas: “My Lord and my God
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson