2nd Sunday of Easter – 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – 2015

Acts 4:32-35, 1Jn.5:1-6, Jn.20:19-31

A priest was forced by a police officer to pull over for speeding. As the officer was about to write the ticket, the priest said to him, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”The police officer handed the priest the ticket, and said, “Go, and sin no more.”

Jim Williams was driving too fast late one night when he saw the flashing lights of a police car in his rearview mirror. As he pulled over and rolled down his window of his station wagon, he tried to dream up an excuse for his haste. But when the patrol man reached the car, he said nothing. Instead, he merely shined his flashlight in his face, then on his seven-month-old in his car seat, then on his three other children, who were asleep.

And lastly he did on the two dogs in the very back of the car. Returning the beam of light to his face, the police man uttered the only words of the encounter. “Son,’ he said, ‘you can’t afford a ticket. Slow down.” And with that, he returned to his car and drove away.” Sometimes mercy triumphs over law. So it is for sinners who call out to Jesus.”

The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting faith and our need for the forgiveness of sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as “God of everlasting Mercy.” In the responsorial psalm we repeat several times, “His mercy endures forever!”

God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son, to become our Savior and Lord by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Divine mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the Sacraments, instituted to sanctify us.

We have been celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ for the past week. Today we celebrate one particular aspect of the Resurrection: Divine Mercy. We see divine mercy at work in the appearances of Jesus. First the angel announced his Resurrection, but no one believed. Then he himself appeared to Mary Magdalene. She believed, but no one believed her.

Then he appeared to Cleopas and another disciple in Emmaus. Then he appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to a group including nine other apostles. Only Thomas was left out now. With all these people testifying to the Resurrection, surely he will believe. No.

The story of St. Thomas’ unbelief in today’s Gospel passage seems to condemn him. But this passage in fact condemns all of the apostles: either for not believing in the Resurrection, or for not acting on their belief. Because the Gospel says, “the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews.”

St. Thomas claims that he will not believe until he puts his fingers in the holes made by the nails and his hand into the side opened by the spear. He does not want to believe in a ghost or a con man. He thinks everyone else might have been fooled, and he is not willing to be fooled along with them.

As a side note, there is someone else left out, someone whom Jesus never appeared to: his mother, Mary. When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”, he meant her above all. She receives every blessing in Scripture, and this is no exception. She believed in the Resurrection before anyone else. She did not even go to the tomb on Easter morning. She knew that no one was there.

The Gospel says that one week passed before Jesus appeared again. That must have been an uncomfortable week for Thomas. Thomas was still sad, still mourning the death of Jesus. Everyone must have seemed crazy. Thomas could not leave in case Jesus appeared again, but it must have been very hard to stay when everyone around him was celebrating.

God is merciful. Not only does Jesus appear to Thomas, but he tells him to put his finger in his hands and his hand in his side. Whatever it takes, Jesus is willing to do, but Thomas was wrong. He did not need to touch Jesus to prove to himself the reality of the Resurrection. As soon as he sees Jesus, he falls down and says, “My Lord and my God.” Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to undergo any humiliation Thomas needed.

This is mercy. Our God is not aloof. He does not stand far off and tell us to make the arduous journey to him. He comes right down to us. He stands inches away and asks us to take one step. We have to make the journey, but he will be with us every step of the way. He will not put up with us living in sin, but he will do everything he can to help us get out.

Mercy does not take away justice. What is right is right. God will not let sinners into heaven. He will not let unbelievers into heaven. It would not be just. If heaven was full of sinners and unbelievers, it would be a lot like earth, which is not exactly perfect. If heaven is going to be perfect, all the people in heaven have to be perfect.

It would not be merciful if God made an exception and let someone bad into heaven; it would ruin heaven. Instead, he does everything in his power to make us good.  Jesus tells the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

He gives this immense power to them for one reason: because we need forgiveness. The priests do not receive this power to increase their importance. They passed this power on to their successors and assistants, the bishops and priests. Even today, every priest in the world can forgive sins. How amazing!

Life would have been terrible if we had been saved but there were no forgiveness. Only small children would go to heaven. We would lose our salvation as quickly as Adam and Eve. God has made it so easy to have our sins forgiven. We do not need to climb Mt. Everest or slay a dragon. We only have to go to one of the half a million priests in the world and confess our sins.

Maybe you would prefer killing a dragon. Satan wants us to be afraid of Confession. Jesus has made it so easy, but Satan tries to scare us away. We do not need to climb Mt. Everest, but we have to climb over our pride, which might be harder. Only we can get in our own way.

But when we do get in our own way, Jesus will help us find our way again. If Thomas does not believe, Jesus will appear on Thomas’s terms. If we commit sins, Jesus gives his priests the ability to forgive sins. Who knows what secrets are contained within the mercy of God!

So we need to accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy in our Christian lives. One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive and give thanks for Divine Mercy. But it is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.

When Christ appeared to the apostles, what did he say to convince them who he was? Did he work a miracle? No. He showed them the wounds in his side, his hands, and his feet: his battle scars from his fight with death. Christ, the victor over death, shows us His divine mercy. He invites us to share in the strength of His Body and Blood, and invites us to share fully in the life of His Holy Spirit. Amen.