Sunday Sermon for April 15, 2012, Divine Mercy Sunday, Year B
Readings: Acts: 4:32-35; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31
In the first reading today we are told that the believers were of one heart and mind and that the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of our Lord. The idea that all the believers would be of one heart and mind seems almost unrealistic in a society like ours. After all, it seems that everyone wants to define his or her own faith: “I believe in this, but not in that,” “I’m Catholic, but…,” “as Catholics, we really don’t believe that anymore.”
As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday we have the opportunity to strive for this oneness of mind and heart. Before that unity can be accomplished we have to have faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His love and mercy. Most of us are probably the beneficiaries of His mercy, of His patience, of His love. What if He would have squashed us when we were dead in sin? What if He would have refused to forgive me? What if He would have said that I chose to go my own way and would not allow me back into the Church?
When we see things from this perspective it makes us much more likely to be willing to extend mercy to others. If we had never known mercy, we might sit back and arrogantly hope that others “get what’s coming to them.” But when we have been treated with mercy, we want others to know that mercy as well. When we have experienced the power of the forgiveness of sins, we are going to tell others about it.
The mercy and forgiveness we have received comes through the Blood of Jesus which was shed out of love for us. If He was not both God and man, we could have a theoretical understanding of His mercy and love, but because He came in water and in Blood, as St. John says in the second reading, we have proof of His love and we can bear witness to that love. The water, in this case is the divinity of Jesus and the Blood represents the humanity of our Lord.
When we look at the Divine Mercy picture we notice the rays coming from His Sacred Heart representing water and blood. Although the wounds are visible, our Lord is shown to be very gentle and peaceful. He is not angry, as one might think He should be when we consider what we did to Him. There is nothing in His countenance to keep us away but, as it was when He was lifted up on the Cross, so the image of His mercy draws us to Himself.
We have another example of His gentleness and mercy in the Gospel reading today. Notice that our Lord did not chastise Thomas for not believing. Instead, He came to Thomas and held out His hands, marked with the wounds He received at the crucifixion, for Thomas to inspect. He showed Thomas His side and invited him to place his hand in the wound. This event, coupled with the fact that the all of the Apostles had abandoned Him and were now locked in hiding due to their fear, gives a clear demonstration of the mercy of our blessed Lord.
We do not need to be afraid of Him. He told us that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but He came so that the world might be saved. He is not interested in saving the earth, per se, but He is interested in the souls of human persons who inhabit the earth.
This is the message that we can all bring to others. It is not the false message of cheap forgiveness or the idea that God does not really care what we do. No, it is not a message of presumption, but of truth. People need to know about the love of God shown in the Cross and resurrection. We do this by bearing witness to love of God by acting in accord with the love that has been lavished upon us.
St. John tells us that the love of God is this: that we keep His commandments. If we keep the commandments of God we will be giving witness to others. We all know that we can tell people about the faith, but if we do not live it they will not believe. In fact, they will quickly figure out that we do not really believe either because our actions speak louder than our words.
If we want to bear witness to the love and mercy of God, we need to keep the commandments and live according to the truths of the Faith. If we want to be of one mind and heart, it begins by being one with Jesus Whose mercy desires, not the condemnation, but the conversion and salvation of all.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.