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04/03/16 Divine Mercy Sunday - Fr. Reggie

The gospel seems to have a strange focus today. We’re in the Easter Season, and joy is everywhere. Spring is in the air. The days are getting longer. Christ is Risen!

So why does St John keep emphasizing Christ’s wounds in the gospel we just heard? As soon as Jesus walks into the room where the disciples were, he shows them his hands and his side. He shows them the wounds of his crucifixion. Thomas isn’t there. He returns later, and the others excitedly tell him “We have seen the Lord!” But he replies: “I won’t believe it until I see and touch the wounds.” He does see and touch the wounds, and that leads him to exclaim “My Lord and my God!”

John wants to remind us that God so loved the world that he gave us his only son. Jesus died for you and for me. Jesus has saved us. And his wounds are his identity card. They shout out to us that God’s mercy is more powerful than death.   

All this is tied in with the special feast we’re celebrating today on Divine Mercy Sunday. Mercy is when’s God love meets our brokenness. We all need God’s mercy. And we all need to see God’s mercy. As Pope Francis, paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI, once said, “The name of God is mercy.” And the wounds of Christ, visible for all eternity, are the vivid reminder of God’s mercy. It’s not enough to know abstractly that the name of God is mercy. We need to see it. We need to be reminded of it.

So we can say that the mercy of God comes to us through Christ’s wounds. 

In September, 2015, Jesuit artist Fr. Marko Rupnik completed the mosaics in the chapel at the John Paul II shrine in Washington DC. They’re a stunning overview of salvation history. One wall depicts the fall into sin, and the early revelations of God in the Old Testament. The other wall portrays the events of the New Testament such as the Annunciation and the Birth of Jesus. The focal point is the sanctuary. Behind the altar there’s a striking mosaic of Christ with outstretched arms in the form of a cross. He has a visible wound in his side.

But the wound has a very particular shape. It looks like a flame. And you’re left wondering what it means… And then you look up. Above the altar there’s an identical mark on the ceiling. It matches the wound in Christ’s side.   It represents the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on the altar, to transform the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It also represents the mercy of God which the Holy Spirit pours out upon each of our lives.

The message is clear and powerful. Mercy flows from the wounds of Jesus. 

Sometimes we’re afraid to let God see our wounds. But what if I were to go to a doctor because I cut my foot, and say, “I don’t feel so good… My foot is killing me.” And then I don’t let the doctor look at it. He can’t really do that much for me if I don’t show him the wound.

When we bring our wounds caused by sin to Jesus, he can heal them. And then the mercy of God can come to us through our wounds.

Where does this happen? Above all in the sacrament of reconciliation. Every time we confess our sins two things happen. First we receive the mercy of God who forgives our sins. Second we receive strength from God to live as his beloved children.

So let’s take courage from this feast of God’s mercy we’re celebrating today. And let’s resolve to attend confession frequently this year. Once a month is usually a good goal. (Here it’s important to remind people of the times for confessions.)

Christ’ mercy comes to us through his wounds. And when we bring him our wounds in the sacrament of confession, our very wounds become an entrance point for his merciful love. And we experience the peace and the joy that Christ wants to give us. 

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