Opening Our Hearts to Receive the Holy Spirit

Living in the Communion of Divine Love

Jesus is the Vine, We are the Branches

Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Jesus Invites Us To Share In The Good News

Msgr. Joseph Prior

The package arrived at the school office of Saint John Fisher High School, Peterborough, United Kingdom. It was addressed to the librarian. Enclosed was a book, borrowed from the library. There was no name of the person who borrowed the book, just a note, “Sorry, just 32 years overdue, call it Catholic guilt.” The librarian calculated the fine as $1,100 but the school when announcing this on their web-site posted “all is forgiven.”

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter also designated as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” God’s mercy is clearly and definitively manifest in Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. We may recall some of his last words on the cross – “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The greatest outpouring of mercy was on the cross, however, this was prepared for by Jesus’ preaching and teaching on mercy during the public ministry.

We can recall numerous times when Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” We might remember the time when He encounters the paralytic. He cannot walk on his own. When his friends saw the crowd making it impossible to get to Jesus they climb to the roof and lower the paralytic down to Jesus. When Jesus sees him he says, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes watching this are thinking to themselves who does He think He is, forgiving sins.

Jesus then says, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—  he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” (Mark 2:1-12) Or we might think of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The elders throw her to the ground in front of Jesus saying that the law demands she be stoned to death. Jesus bends down and starts writing on the ground.

He then says, “Let the one among you with no sin be the first to cast a stone.” They all walk away for they know they are sinners. When he looks up an everyone is gone, He says to the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she answers.

He then says, “Neither do I condemn you, go now and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) Or we may recall one of the many times Jesus teaches on forgiveness. One example is when Peter asks Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-35) Or we may think of the many stories Jesus told illustrating God’s mercy. Perhaps one of the most memorable is the story of the Loving Father more commonly referred to as the story of the Prodigal Son. At the end of the story, trying to explain to the older brother why He was so gracious to the younger son now returned, he says, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” (cf. Luke 15:11-32)

Now Risen from the dead, Jesus says to the disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The mercy which he poured out on the cross, is now to be shared among the members of the Church. The peace and reconciliation He won on the cross is to be shared among her members.

The communion we share in Christ Jesus cannot grow or be sustained without mercy. His mercy is abundant and available at all times. He expects us to share that mercy readily and regularly. The first reading for today’s liturgy comes, as all the first readings for masses during the Easter Season, from Acts of the Apostles. The reading recalls the “community of believers” being of “one heart and mind.” There is clearly a unity among her members, a communion. They are at peace with one another. So much so that “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” Mercy sustains that union, heals division, bridges difference, and promotes peace.

We are all recipients of God’s merciful love. He has forgiven us in and through His Son’s death and resurrection. The cross becomes the great symbol, not of death but of life; not of sin but of mercy.

On the cross, Jesus clothes in Himself the wonderful refrain of Psalm 118 (and 136) “His mercy endures forever.”

This mercy we celebrate today for “all is forgiven.”

***

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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