The 2nd Sunday of Easter or The Sunday of Divine Mercy
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: 1st Letter of St. Peter 1:3-9
Gospel: According to St. John 20:19-31
One of the great themes of the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul, and one carried into the present day by both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, is that of Divine Mercy. For John Paul the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000 went way beyond any ethnic solidarity with his fellow Pole, St. Faustina Kowalska, whose visions form the basis for the modern devotion to the Divine Mercy of Christ.
In his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia – “Rich in Mercy” – John Paul pointed out that the events surrounding the Paschal Mystery, beginning with Jesus’ time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane “introduce a fundamental change into the whole course of the revelation of love and mercy in the messianic mission.” The One Who has shown so much mercy throughout His public ministry, the One Who is the personification of the mercy of God, is now the One Who is in need of – or to be more pointed, as St. John Paul is in the encyclical: is deserving of – mercy.
Yet, everywhere He turns there is nothing but scorn and abuse and ultimately death.
Jesus becomes for us both an example of how to react when we see those who need our mercy, as well as how to act when the world abandons us to its cruelties. If we are called to see Jesus in those we meet and to offer them mercy in His Name, then that mercy must be universal, even – and especially – given to those who we don’t feel deserve it. Christ’s Passion and Death show the lengths to which the Divine Mercy went in order to save all sinners without exception, so clearly expressed with the words “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
And those words also remind us of how we are to respond when we are in need of mercy and no one sees the face of Jesus in us. As the world continues along the path towards its end and the Second Coming, more and more will the gap between those who love their enemies and those who hate them become apparent. Without Christ-like love for those who are “on the other side” dialogue among nations and neighbors gives way to violence and war.
As tensions at home and abroad escalate, how many are willing to look to Christ on the Cross as the model of how to act when they feel slighted, discriminated against or abused? Who will show the commitment to Jesus that is necessary to be wounded by another, possibly intentionally, and to show mercy to the one who, according to the ways of the world, should be made to pay?
When Jesus appeared to His disciples He greeted them with the words “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” For what purpose were they sent? To show mercy: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.” One week later He again greeted them with words of peace, and then showed Thomas His wounds so that he might believe. Those wounds are essential to the mission of those who follow Christ, for they are both the ultimate cost of mercy in this world and the price of admission to the Divine Mercy to be experienced in the next.