Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022)

“The Lord is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!” “He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

Our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection continues today as we observe Divine Mercy Sunday. The celebration recalls the great love that the Lord of Life pours out on us in his resurrection. God created us in love, has redeemed us in love and sustains us in his love. Today we are reminded that the gift of divine mercy is showered upon us, delivering us from sin and fear.

The Gospel passage for today’s liturgy recalls one of Jesus’ encounters with the disciples following his resurrection. The disciples are gathered in a locked room filled with fear. They are distraught as what has happened to Jesus.

So much has happened in a few short days. Jesus had been welcomed to such acclaim in Jerusalem in the beginning of the week. Then he was betrayed and arrested while at prayer in the garden. Most of the disciples fled at this point. Peter stayed but caved in fear when he denied the Lord three times. Then came the trial, scourging and cross. Now the tomb is empty. Fear and confusion are intermingled with a glimpse of hope.

Jesus enters the locked room and immediately greets them with “Peace be with you!” Sensing their state of shock, he shows them his hands and side. Again, he offers them peace, this time saying: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

The peace Jesus offers is a sign of mercy and reconciliation. He forgives them but also forgives all. This message of mercy is to be carried far and wide by the apostles and disciples. The first reading recalls an early stage of the spread of the Gospel. Peter has heard the call of Jesus and is bringing the message of mercy to many in Jerusalem. Soon that same message will be carried throughout the world. The message continues to be spread today.

St. John Paul II, recognizing the need for the message of mercy to be highlighted, designated this “Second Sunday of Easter” as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” We live in a fragile, broken world. This year we are witnessing the horrors of an unprovoked aggressive war in Ukraine. Millions of people are directly affected. In addition to the death of brave soldiers, civilians, including the children and babies, are mercilessly killed.

Perhaps this is the most vivid example today of the fragile state of humanity. The last century with its epoch of wars and destruction were a distant memory until the recent events forced us to remember. The fragility of mankind is seen in the precursors to war such as fear, greed, lack of trust, broken relationships, pride and power. This coupled with the ever-growing discrepancy between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the population seem to help spread those precursors to other parts of the world.

It is into this world, fragile as it is, that Jesus sends his message of mercy: “Peace be with you.”

St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), a young Polish nun, had several visions of Jesus who asked her to be a messenger of mercy. In one of those visions St. Faustina saw the image of Christ with two rays, one of red and one of white, coming forth from his risen body. The image recalls the pouring forth of divine mercy.

Paintings of the image have circulated throughout the world coupled with the recitation of the chaplet as a message of mercy for a broken world.

Jesus’ victory over sin and death comes with his resurrection. He took upon himself the worst of human suffering and affliction. In doing so, he gives the greatest witness of love: “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The resurrection breaks the power of sin and death. Nothing has the power to destroy God’s love for us. It is in that love that he continues to pour out his mercy — the mercy that heals, strengthens, restores and enlivens hope. We celebrate that mercy today.

The mercy that God pours out in his Son is for the whole of humanity as well as for each human being. He knows each one of us by name just as he knew Peter, Thomas, John Paul and Faustina. Today we celebrate that love that sees us through fear to peace, death to life, suffering to relief, sorrow to consolation, grief to joy, and confusion to understanding.

As we recognize his mercy in our lives, we also hear the call to go forth and share the message of mercy, and the most effective way is to live mercy, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to love as we have been loved.

“The Lord is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!” “He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.