2nd Sunday of Easter Year B & Divine Mercy Sunday - April 7, 2024

2nd Sunday of Easter Year B & Divine Mercy Sunday - April 7, 2024

Acts of the Apostles 2:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

 

Theme: “Whose Sins You Forgive are Forgiven Them”

Since 2000 (24 years ago), 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 these private revelations official, 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 Scripture readings of this Mass, our Holy Mother Church invites us to contemplate our Risen Lord as the ambassador of mercy (Gospel). She exhorts us to promote unity in our families and Church community by loving God and obeying his commandments. (first and second readings).

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 felt like they were the losers in this scene. Moreover, they are thinking at this moment that the people who crucified their Master are searching for them to execute them, too. They live with great fear and confusion. Amid their terrible feelings, Jesus appears. Many of us today are going through similar crises. Anxieties, worries, and any other sufferings that we face daily create fear 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 our hearts, too, are troubled due to all the trials that we go through. Let us listen attentively to our Lord, who is saying to us right now, “Peace be with you.” This is not the peace the Jews employ to greet each other (see John 14: 27); it is instead 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 sends us on a 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 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. All of us, priests, lay and religious people, are made “apostles,” the “sent,” each with his/her specific calling. Let us go out to the mission. This mission consists of bringing the good news of the resurrection of Christ to everyone, especially those who still lock themselves off because of fears caused by all the crises they go through. Let us extend to them the peace of the resurrected Lord we have received in this Mass.

Our mission also consists of reaching out to all people who do not attend Church, especially the old members of our Church community. We are sent to them to encourage them to come to the Church of Jesus and experience his peace of the resurrection as the apostles did in our first reading. The sacred author of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the community of believers was of one heart and mind. They put all their possessions in common. This is because the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded to them all. Let us also bear witness to the resurrection of Christ today among our family members and brothers and sisters in our neighborhoods and everywhere we live and make our Church community become like this community of believers in our first reading. We need to live in unity.

The mission of the Resurrected Jesus is also the mission of forgiving sins. Our Gospel says that after breathing on his disciples, Jesus empowered them to forgive or retain the sins of people (see v. 23). Our Holy Mother Church defined that this power to forgive sins is exercised in the sacrament of reconciliation (penance) called Confession by the ordained priests, who are the apostles’ successors. We seek three things in the sacrament of confession: forgiveness of our sins, reconciliation with God and our fellow humans whom we offended, and the healing of spiritual, emotional, or psychological wounds that sin causes.

First, in the confession, we implore Jesus to forgive our sins. The way we go to our shower rooms and take a shower to clean our body from any stain of dirt is the same way we need to go to the confessional room to take a spiritual shower and clean our souls from any stain of sins. On the day of our baptism, we wore a white garment and were given a lit candle. We were told to keep this white garment (which stands for our souls) unstained and keep our souls' lamps always lit until our Lord Jesus returns. These two symbols call us to frequently use the sacrament of confession whenever we sin to ensure we are ready to welcome our Lord whenever he comes back or calls us with him.

Second, in the sacrament of confession, we seek two reconciliations: vertical reconciliation (with God) and horizontal reconciliation (with our fellow humans). Note that the priest who listens to our confessions plays two roles. First, in vertical reconciliation, the priest represents Jesus, who stands on behalf of God, whom we offend through our sins. When we confess our sins to a priest, we confess to Jesus himself. He is our mediator with God. The priest who acts in persona Christi accepts our confession, absolves our sins, and reconciles us with God. Second, in confession, we also reconcile with our fellow humans we offend. For some reason, most of the time, it is difficult and even complicated to meet all the people we hurt and ask for forgiveness to seek reconciliation with them. That is why, in confession, the priest stands for all the people we offended by our sins. He listens to us, accepts our apologies, forgives us, and reconciles with us on behalf of these people. We should not feel afraid or shy to tell our sins to the priest. So, confession restores our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters.

Third, because sins can cause emotional, psychological, or spiritual wounds, we also seek healing in confession. We speak with doctors, psychologists, or counselors to seek healing; it should be the same way we need to speak with a priest to seek emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing through confession. Sometimes, the healing process takes time. In this case, I advise “us” to continue the process in a spiritual/psychological direction with the same confessor priest or a professional psychologist.

Let us take advantage of this beautiful sacrament of confession that Jesus instituted to forgive our sins, reconcile us with God and our fellow humans, and provide us with the spiritual, psychological, or emotional healing we need.

Thomas was absent in the first appearance account. He did not believe his companions who told him about their experiences with the resurrected Lord. He conditioned 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 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 invites us to touch the marks of our fellow humans, who suffer 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 also consists of ministering 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 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 wherever we live. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

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