SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER –DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY (YEAR C)
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
We have three reasons to reflect on the Mercy of God. First, every second Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday, secondly, our readings illustrate the mercy of God and thirdly, Pope Francis has declared 8th December 2015 – 20th November 2016 as the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy.
Our God is awesome. He is full of wonderful attributes that we are privileged to know a bit. He is self-existent, incomprehensible, immutable, eternal, transcendental, immanent, just and merciful, just to mention a few. Today we continue our joyous celebration of Easter and a reflection on the outcomes of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Particularly we recognize the Lord’s attribute of MERCY as a gift of His resurrection. Mercy has to do with kindness and forgiveness. Mercy is a chief attribute of God as well as a virtue for us to imbibe. Hence, Jesus Christ says in the Beatitudes, “Happy are those who have mercy: for they will be given mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)
The first reading relates how the early Christian community lived a life of mercy by ministering to those in their community that where sick and afflicted with unclean spirits. This highlights the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drinks to the thirsty, clothing the naked, harbouring the harbourless, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead (Matt. 25:31-46). The second reading points to the spiritual works of mercy: teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, correcting the sinners, counselling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving wrongs willingly. While the Gospel reading is a clear demonstration of the mercy of God by the gift of the sacrament of mercy. Jesus Christ says, the sins you forgive are forgiven and those you retain are retained (John 20:23).
Jesus the Divine Mercy says to John in the second reading “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore,” (Rev. 1:17-18). Be not in doubt of the reality of the risen Jesus. Rather let us affirm His presence in our individual lives and in world like Thomas in the gospel, saying “My Lord and my God.”
One of the main ways to testify about the resurrection of Jesus is to trust His mercy and this mercy ought to be received and given to others. When Peter walked among the sick, many were healed when his shadow fell upon them. Through Peter, the power of Jesus continued to manifest itself after His glorious Resurrection. Resulting from the many wonders that took place, a great number of men and women joined the Church.
Today the Church celebrates the Mercy of God – DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY. This celebration was inaugurated by Pope St. John Paul II on the 30th of April 2000, following the request by Jesus Christ through the private revelations He made to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
We need to accept and appreciate God’s invitation to His Divine Mercy. We can practically experience and receive the mercy of God via the sacrament of reconciliation. Hence, Jesus’ first gift to His Apostles after His resurrection was the power to forgive sins through the agency of the Sacrament of Confession. He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). There is no sin that is beyond the mercy of God. The Lord says, He does not derive pleasure in the death of a sinner or wicked man but let him turn from his evil ways and live (Ezek. 18:23 & 32). “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isa. 1:18). Please do not allow sin to torment you again, experience the gift of Jesus’ resurrection, which is his mercy. The power of sin lies in its secrecy and once it is exposed, it become powerless. Little wonder St. James would say, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James.5:16). “The favours of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
We need to practice mercy in our daily Christian life, mainly by carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Again, we have to allow mercy always to regulate law and justice just as Jesus Christ did to the adulterous woman in (John 8:1-11). In our time, an example of Mercy in action is St. Pope John Paul II. The Saint went to the prison to forgive Mehmet Ali Agca who had attempted to assassinate him. He did that on the 13th of May 1981. Today he is known as an icon of mercy. You too can do same and even more. God bless you.
Fr. John-Mary Atep