Sunday Sermon for April 28, 2019, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year C
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, a Feast our Lord Himself requested through St. Faustina. Mercy has been indispensible throughout history, but in God’s Providence He has waited until our own time ask for a liturgical celebration in honor of His mercy. It is a day awaited by many each year because our Lord promised special graces for those who celebrate His mercy today. (Please note: contrary to popular belief, there is nothing in the Diary of St. Faustina about going to confession or receiving a complete pardon on Divine Mercy Sunday).
Indeed, we see the gentleness of our Lord in His approach to St. Thomas a week after the resurrection. A week earlier our Lord upbraided His Apostles for their tardiness in belief, especially after the holy women had told them of their encounter with the Risen Lord. With Thomas, however, our Lord shows no harshness or frustration, but an invitation to doubt no longer, but believe.
The other Apostles were firm in their belief in the resurrection and in the Lordship of Jesus, but His appearance on the eighth day must have bolstered their faith and their courage immensely. It would have taken the Apostles time to process all the events they had witnessed and to recall the many teachings of our Lord, but within a couple months after the resurrection, we see the Apostles in Solomon’s Portico, a porch inside the southern wall of the Temple, working signs and wonders among the people.
We are told no one else dared to join the Apostles, but they were there preaching and praying. Many were touched by what they saw and heard; they became believers in Christ or they brought people to the Apostles for healing. The Gospel began to spread because of the faith and courage of a very small number of people.
It was precisely the mercy of God that the Apostles preached. How important it was for people to hear their sins were forgiven and they were reconciled with God! As we see in the Gospel reading today, the forgiveness of sins was our Lord’s primary focus on Easter evening with His Apostles. It is possible, like the disciples who left Jerusalem to go to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection, the Apostles could have misunderstood everything about Jesus, Who He is and why He died. It is almost as if our Lord was taking no chances: He wanted the Apostles to understand and to teach the forgiveness of sin in His Name.
The one caution with Divine Mercy is that people might take things too far and assume that God is so merciful that there is no need for repentance or to go to confession. Sadly, this presumption about the mercy of God is something we hear often. People need to know God is love and He is mercy itself. People also need to know we cannot be presumptuous and take that Him for granted. Love is a two way street. God loves us infinitely, but if we are not willing to receive His love and love Him in return, we will not be able to receive His mercy either.
It is good to reflect on the scene we are shown in the second reading today. St. John, the Beloved Disciple, is exiled to the island of Patmos. There he receives the epic vision we have come to know as the Book of Revelation. In today’s reading St. John describes the beginning of his vision when he turns to see Who is speaking to him. St. John sees Jesus, dressed as a priest in a white robe with a gold sash around His chest. Upon seeing Jesus, St. John, the Beloved, the one who placed his head on our Lord’s chest at the Last Supper, fell down at our Lord’s feet as though dead.
After being with our Lord for three years, being graced with post resurrection appearances and describing the great mercy of our Lord as we heard in today’s Gospel reading, St. John sees Jesus in glory and falls down as if dead. The Lord at Whose feet St. John is prostrate is the same all-loving and all-merciful God He knew and loved.
Jesus is God with all the glory and honor that entails. We must always keep this truth before us and strive to find the proper balance in our minds. Do not try to make Jesus in your own image and likeness or into someone like a fairly tale character. Do not presume on His love and mercy. Instead, have proper reverence for Him as God, love Him, repent, and have absolute confidence in His infinite love and mercy. Heavenly Father, for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
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.