Sunday Sermon for April 7, 2013, the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, Year C
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
In the Gospel readings today we hear the account of the glorious appearance of our Lord to His Apostles on Easter night. It is most fitting that we have such a reading because today is the Octave Day of Easter and, therefore, not only continues what we celebrated a week ago, but also signifies a new beginning. Some of the Saints have made mention that the doubts expressed by St. Thomas the Apostle have done more the people’s faith over the centuries than the faith of the other ten.
Regardless of this fact, we all come under the umbrella of the blessing our Lord pronounced upon those who have not seen and yet believe. We all know of Thomas’ acts of faith in Jesus when he was able to investigate the wounds himself. But all us of have been freed from sin by those wounds and by the Blood which poured forth from them. Although we have never seen His wounds, we are healed by them.
This healing and our privileged call to be a member of Christ brings with it a certain and serious obligation to live in accordance with the dignity that is ours in Christ. We first have to see the great mercy of our Lord shown in the second reading. St. John sees our Lord, His best Friend, and immediately falls upon his face as if dead. This is how awesome the glory of the risen Christ is: that His closest friend would fall down before Him as if dead. Jesus touched John and told him that he had nothing to fear.
He goes further to explain that He holds the keys to death and the Netherworld. This would have been our greatest fear, but the mercy of our Lord has defeated death and has purchased life for us. Each of us has a share in this life when we are in the state of Grace. In Christ, then, we are also victorious over death and the netherworld.
More than this, we need to recall that this defeat of our mortal enemy was done in love and in humility. When our Lord tells us that we have nothing to fear, that does not have meaning only with regard to death and the afterlife, but it has to do with the Person of Jesus as well. John falls down in fear as he sees Jesus in glory, but the greatest glory of God is found in His love and mercy. This is what Jesus extends to St. John and to everyone who will believe in His Name.
In the first reading we hear about the response of the Apostles to the mercy and love of God that they had experienced. It is similar to the actions of love we see from Jesus in the second reading. In the case of the Apostles, we are told that the people were afraid to join them, but still they held the Apostles in esteem. They would bring the sick out on mats hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall upon them for healing.
As our Lord did with St. John, and with each of us, the Apostles do not reject these people because they are afraid. Instead, they reassure the people and point them to faith in Jesus. The people, though afraid of the reaction of others and the fallout that might come to them if they are seen with the Apostles, are still treated with patience, charity, and mercy by the Apostles. This is the kind of love and mercy that each one of us can bring to others, but not until we experience it first.
Each of us can probably tell someone about Jesus and that they do not need to be afraid of Him because He will not hurt them. The problem is that many of us still believe that he will never really accept us, that He will hurt us or reject us. We know all of the right words, but if we do not believe them we will not be able to act upon them.
Once the Apostles knew the mercy of God they wanted others to experience it too. We see that their actions were very similar to the actions of our Lord when He extended mercy to them. This is a blue print for us for whom mercy needs to be more than a theoretical concept; it needs to be an action. There is more need for mercy today than ever before. In a society like ours many people have never experienced real love or mercy being extended to them. Apply to yourself the words you would use to tell others about our Lord. Be not afraid; open your heart to receive His mercy and love, then bring that love and mercy to others.
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.