(Readings of the Holy Mass – Second Sunday of Easter: Sunday of Divine Mercy)
“Peace be with you,” Jesus says as he enters the room through the locked door. The disciples have the door locked for they are full of fear. Jesus says it again: “Peace be with you.”
The greeting is full of power for the one who offers it is the One who can give it. Jesus’ offer of peace is an offer of healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, and ultimately life. He offers them freedom from sin and death.
He offers them freedom from fear. “Peace” entails concord, harmony, and wholesome relations with others and self. It offers communion.
Jesus can give peace for he has conquered the power of sin. In rising from the dead, He robs sin of its power. His offer of peace is an offer of mercy.
Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, we celebrate God’s mercy. Saint John Paul designated this liturgical day as “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
God’s mercy is profound. We have seen it over and over in the Scriptures. His patience is endless. His longing for Israel endures even when they turn from Him. Jesus gives us lessons on mercy. He tells us to forgive “seven times, seven times.”
He tells us not to judge others. He illustrates the Father’s mercy in his parables and stories, the “Prodigal Son” being one of the most vivid. Jesus’ teaching on mercy and its effects come to life in Him. When he frees people from sin and a resulting miracle occurs – “Which is easier to say, ‘take up your mat’ or ‘your sins are forgiven;’” when he forgives the woman caught in the act of adultery; and when on the cross he says: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Jesus becomes mercy as he offers Himself on the cross. In this sacrificial offering, He has made us one with the Father and each other.
In His obedience to the Father, who will’s mankind’s reconciliation and healing, we witness God’s mercy. And so the evangelist tells us: “And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:50)
In the resurrection account we hear today, immediately after his greeting of “peace,” Jesus breaths on the disciples and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The disciples are charged to be instruments of peace through reconciliation. Soon they will leave Jerusalem and travel about the world proclaiming Christ and His victory. They will proclaim the God of love, the God of mercy.
Many people will come to know and to believe through their witness and the countless others who through the centuries have made the same proclamation and offered the same invitation. The gift of life we celebrate is not one to be held back but to be shared, proclaimed and offered.
Thomas, not being present when the Lord meets the others on that Easter Sunday night, is incredulous. He does not believe. It is too much. How could Jesus rise from the dead? His grief and fear overwhelm him. He will not believe. So the next time Jesus appears, He immediately goes to Thomas for his doubt is robbing him of life. Jesus offers him his hands and side. “Do not be unbelieving but believe.”
Faith is so important to life. Jesus calls us to believe in Him.
Today we focus on his mercy so His call to believe is a call to understand that He can, will, and does forgive. So many people are trapped in lives of doubt. Some think there is no chance for them, so it is useless to do anything.
Some have such a poor image of themselves that they think it is impossible for God to forgive. Some do not understand the power of God’s mercy, that His forgiveness is complete.
Some people are so weighed down that they do not know where to turn. Some people are so busy they don’t even have time to hear the Lord knocking at the door.
Some people have a slanted vision of God by which wrath overtakes mercy. Some are in so much pain that they block out the possibility of God.
People long for peace. Jesus gives us the responsibility to offer it through the proclamation of his passion, death and resurrection. To announce the good news and to invite others to faith so they too might know His mercy and His peace.
The communion we share in the peace of Christ is witnessed in the way we live with each other.
The first reading from Acts of the Apostles gives witness in a very simple fashion to life in the Church. It is one in which her members are “at peace” with one another. Here that “peace” means that they genuinely care about each other.
Saint Luke tells us that the disciples devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to communal life, to the breaking of the bread (Eucharist) and to prayer. This is the living witness to the “peace” established by Christ.
Mercy is a hallmark for we are regularly in need of it. Forgiveness in all its forms heals the wounds of sin and strengthens the bond of communion.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells the disciples. He says it to us as well.
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.
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