THEME: DIVINE MERCY
READINGS: Acts 2:42-47/ 1 Peter 1:3-9/ John 20:19-31
2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
In the wake of the CoViD-19 pandemic, some have wondered whether God is punishing us. Unfortunately, others have even been more emphatic in saying that the pandemic is God’s punishment for our sins. Beloved, this is certainly not true! For how can the God who so loved us that He gave us, not just one of His several sons, but His only Begotten and Beloved Son, punish us with a pandemic? How can the God who sacrificed His only Son in order to save us from eternal death contradict Himself by sending us a deadly virus? How can the Son of God who, while suffering on the cross, asked His Father to forgive us, now ask the Father to punish us?
Beloved our God is in the business of saving souls and not the business of killing souls. God is in the business of saving souls because of His loving mercy. Therefore, as we celebrate the feast of God’s Mercy or Divine Mercy today, may God take away from our minds and hearts all unfounded fears of divine punishment and fill us with His grace of mercy.
While it is true that sin creates a gap or valley between us and God, He bridges the gap or valley with His loving mercy. For this reason, Pope Francis says that Divine Mercy is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”. In other words, the Pope says that Divine Mercy is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.” So, beloved, God comes to meet us with mercy and not punishment.
In Jesus Christ, we experience the mercy of God in a concrete way. Hence, the Pope says that Divine Mercy “has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus Christ, the Pope continues, “is the face of the Father’s mercy. … Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. John 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by His words, His actions, and His entire person reveals the mercy of God”.
Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy, demonstrated and continues to demonstrate divine mercy in many ways. Let us look at some of these ways:
- Jesus demonstrated divine mercy by washing the feet of Peter and feeding him at the Last Supper, even though He knew that Peter would deny Him three times.
- Jesus demonstrated divine mercy by washing the feet of the rest of the Apostles and feeding them at the Last Supper, even though He knew that they would desert Him.
Beloved, even today, Jesus, because of His great mercy, continues to wash the feet of those who deny or desert Him. Jesus knows that after washing, not just our feet, but our souls in baptism, we will sometimes deny Him by not confidently or publicly expressing our faith in Jesus; or we will sometimes desert Him by our unfaithfulness, yet Jesus washes away our sins.
Furthermore, even today, Jesus, because of His great mercy, continues to feed those who deny or desert Him. Jesus knows that after feeding us with His most precious Body and Blood, we will sometimes deny or desert Him, yet He continues to feed us, because of His great mercy.
Again, Jesus demonstrated divine mercy by forgiving, while in great pain on the cross, those who betrayed, denied, deserted, falsely accused, mercilessly tortured, unjustly condemned, heartlessly crucified and unfairly mocked Him. Beloved, even, today, Jesus continues to demonstrate divine mercy by showing us kindness and forgiving us, despite the pain our sins cause His Sacred Heart.
Furthermore, how can the Lord, who foresaw and predicted the denial by Peter (who then responded that he would die with the Lord but actually failed to do so), and predicted the desertion by the rest of the Apostles (who then responded like Peter, but likewise failed), not demand an apology on the evening of His resurrection, but rather say to them: “Peace be with you” (John 20:21; the gospel reading)? This is truly the demonstration of divine or ineffable mercy!
Beloved, it should, then, be obvious that no sin is beyond the forgiveness of God. We should, therefore, not allow the gravity of our guilt to overwhelm us. This is the assurance of Pope Francis: God’s “mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive”. Moreover, it should be very comforting and reassuring to know that, by the merits of the precious blood which Jesus shed on Calvary, the Father wipes away our sins as if we never committed them.
Beloved, divine mercy cannot but be infectious. That is, those who experience divine mercy should automatically become carriers of God’s mercy to others. Hence, according to today’s gospel reading, after Jesus had forgiven the Apostles, He entrusted them with the ministry of bringing others to encounter God’s mercy. Thus, He told them “Receive the Holy Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:22-23).
Therefore, beloved, as much as we enjoy God’s kindness and forgiveness in spite of our many and repeated sins, we should become ambassadors of God’s mercy:
- by telling family, friends and other neighbours that God’s kindness and forgiveness abound in spite of our sins, and
- by actually showing kindness and forgiveness to those who trespass against us.
Beloved, to conclude, I wish to recall a command of our Lord which is so dear to Pope Francis: ‘Be merciful, just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36). This verse should guide how we always relate with family, friends and other neighbours. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis