2nd Sunday of Easter & Divine Mercy Sunday-April 16, 2023

 

2nd Sunday of Easter & Divine Mercy Sunday. April 16, 2023

Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31

Theme: “Whose Sins You Forgive are Forgiven Them”

Since the year 2000, the Church has designated the Second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday”. The background of the feast of Divine Mercy is centered on a devotion stemming from the private revelations of Saint Faustina Kowalska from Poland. To make official these private revelations, Pope John Paul II, in 2002, added “Plenary Indulgence” to Divine Mercy Sunday. “Plenary Indulgence” is a complete pardon that Jesus grants to us as he himself revealed it to Saint Faustina, “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy.” (Diary 1109). Through the Gospel passage of this Sunday, the story of the Easter appearance of Christ to his apostles, the Church invites us to contemplate our Risen Lord as the ambassador of mercy.

Our Gospel tells us that the disciples huddled behind locked doors. This was for fear of “the Jews” who executed Jesus. Their master died, everything seemed finished, and they feel like they are the losers in this scene. Moreover, they are thinking at this moment that the people who killed their Master are searching for them to kill them too. They live with great fear and confusion. Amid their terrible feelings, Jesus appears to them. Many of us today are going through similar crises. Anxieties, worries, and any other sufferings that we face daily create fear in us and force us to close ourselves off in our minds. The way Jesus stands in front of his fearful disciples is the same way the mercy of God is always in front of us. We need to recognize and embrace it. The Mercy of God is like the wind, invisible, but its effects can be sensed. It lifts burdens off our shoulders and gives us a new chance to do good.

To the disciples and us, Jesus says: “Peace be with you”. He knew that his followers needed peace as their hearts were troubled. He also knows that you and I need peace as we go through different crises. Let us listen attentively to our Lord who is saying to us right now, “Peace be with you”. This is not the peace like what the Jews employ to greet each other (see John 14: 27); it is rather the peace of resurrection. It resurrects the hope, confidence, and courage that we lost because of fear caused by the suffering of this world.

After strengthening us with his “peace”, Jesus then sends us out to the mission: “As the Father has sent me, so, I send you”. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our mission. Notice how Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. He breathes on his disciples. This recalls the story of creation in the book of Genesis when God created a human being. The man was not yet a living being until when God blew into his nostrils the breath of life. (See Genesis 2: 7). By breathing on us on this Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus recreates us. We have a new life, a life of resurrection. Let us then go out to the mission, Lay ministers as well as ordained ministers, each one with his/her specific calling. This mission consists of bringing the good news of the resurrection of Christ to everyone, especially to those who still lock themselves off because of fears caused by all the crises they go through. All of us are called to extend the peace of the resurrected Lord to them and so encourage them to come to Church as the apostles did in our first reading. This mission also consists of forgiving the sins of the people of God, the power that Jesus gives to the ordained ministers: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20: 23).

Thomas was absent in this first appearance account. He did not believe his companions who told him about their experiences with the resurrected Lord. He based his faith upon physical proof: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”. (v. 25b). Thomas, who is called Didymus meaning twine, here represents all of us today who are called to believe in the resurrection of our Lord although we have not seen him physically. A week later, when Jesus appeared again to them, he invited Thomas to touch the marks of the nails on his hands and side. Jesus is inviting us to touch the marks of our fellow humans who are suffering around us as proof of his resurrection. He is present through the sick, prisoners, marginalized, and poor. So, the mission we receive from the resurrected Lord is also the mission to minister to the people in need. We see Jesus physically through them.

“The liturgy of this Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us of the gift of forgiveness that we receive from God through the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist. The breath of Mercy of Jesus gives us a new life and enables us to become his missionaries. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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