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041920 Divine Mercy Sunday

Why is today Divine Mercy Sunday? On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized the Polish nun who had received from Christ the amazing revelations of the Divine Mercy in the early years of the twentieth century, Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska [koh- VAHL-skuh]. During that ceremony, the pope fulfilled one of the requests that Christ had made through those revelations: that the entire Church reserve the Second Sunday of the Easter Season to honor and commemorate God's infinite mercy.

Where do we see this mercy revealed in today's Readings?

First of all, we see it in the reaction Christ shows to those men, his chosen Apostles, who had abandoned him just two nights before. They had abandoned Jesus in his most difficult hour, but Jesus wasn't going to abandon them. He passes through the locked doors, passes through their fears, regret, and guilt, and appears to them. He hasn't given up on them. He brings them his peace. And he reaffirms his confidence in them by reaffirming their mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

We also see God's mercy in Christ's reaction to the men who had crucified him.  Does he crush them in revenge? No. Instead, he sends out his Apostles to tell them - and to tell the whole sinful world, the world that had crucified its God - that they can be redeemed, that God has not condemned them: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

And then, just to make sure that the Church is fully armed to communicate this message, Jesus gives the ultimate revelation of God's mercy - he delegates to his Apostles his divine power to forgive sins: "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." 

This is the explicit institution of the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament in which the limitless ocean of God's mercy overwhelms the puny ocean of our misery.

It was the ultimate revelation of the Divine Mercy.

Of all the Apostles, perhaps Doubting Thomas experienced this mercy most dramatically. Thomas was mad that Jesus had failed. He was brooding over it, nursing his anger and sorrow in solitude. So when he finally heard the news of the Resurrection, he wouldn't accept it: "Unless I see the mark of the nails... I will not believe." A week later, on the second Sunday after the Resurrection, Divine Mercy Sunday, Thomas is with the other Apostles, still locked inside their fears and doubts. Jesus comes through those locked doors once again, and wishes them peace.

And then what does he do? 

Right after he greets the whole group, his very next words are for Thomas: Touch my wounds, Thomas; believe in me!

What look do you think was in Jesus' eyes at that point? I think he was smiling. He was glad to oblige Thomas' stubborn request. He wasn't offended by the Apostle's hesitation and resistance, he was just eager to get his faith back. And Thomas sees this, and he sees that Christ humbly lowers himself to Thomas' level, letting him touch him, letting him feel Christ's real, physical presence...And Thomas falls on his knees and is the first Apostle to proclaim his faith in Christ's divinity, calling him "My Lord and my God", the very titles given to God throughout the whole Old Testament.

We are all Doubting Thomases. 

We all resist God's action in our lives in one way or another, get mad at him, don't trust him, rebel against him. 

And it is precisely in those moments and those corners of our lives where Jesus wants to show off his boundless mercy, come down to our level, and win back our faith.

What does this boundless mercy do for our troubled and busy lives in the here and now?  What does Christ want it to do?

It can give us peace of heart. Anxiety and frustration and stress - the plagues of modern life - can all be traced back to doubts: doubts of our own worthiness or doubts about the power and goodness of God, about his desire or ability to forgive us, to fix our mistakes, to bring victory out of failure and good out of evil and life out of death. When we suffer from anxiety, frustration, and stress, we are suffering the Doubting Thomas syndrome.

But the revelation of God's mercy wipes away all doubts. 

We know now, without any doubt, that we are worthy, because he has made us worthy, that he has forgiven us, and he will always be willing to forgive us - that's why confessionals are a permanent part of Church architecture and not an optional add-on. that God's power is as limitless as his goodness; he has conquered all the force of evil without ever resorting to evil himself.

Today God reminds us of his mercy, and with that he says to each of us, just as he said to his Apostles 20 centuries ago, those confused, frightened, anxious, and doubting Apostles, "Peace be with you." 

Today at Holy Communion - at least today, when the whole Church celebrates this boundless mercy of God - let's grab onto that peace and claim it for our own by praying the prayer that Jesus himself taught St Faustina: Jesus, I trust in you. And let's really mean it. 

I can think of nothing that would give God greater glory and give the heart of Christ greater pleasure.

 

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