Sunday, April 12, 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday & Doubts


A week has passed since Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of our Lord. Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  Mercy is intertwined with the resurrection. Had Christ not risen from the dead, then we would not have been redeemed (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).  The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ opened up the doors to salvation for all of us. God's mercy now reigns supreme calling us to repentance and happiness in his grace (2 Timothy 1:9).
The Divine Mercy is a devotion that has always been around. However, it has become more centralized due to the visions of Sister Faustina of Poland who had visions of Jesus from 1931 to 1938.  During this period, Christ would reveal to Sister Faustina his desire to have all people reside in Him. This desire is so great that He offers graces of mercy to all people.  Christ even taught Sister Faustina a chaplet which is to be recited on Rosary beads.

See more here:
http://www.sacerdotus.com/2012/04/divine-mercy-sunday.html
http://www.sacerdotus.com/2012/04/divine-mercy-novena.html


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In the first reading from Acts, we read of how the early Church was of one heart and mind. Everyone shared everything and had no needs.  They truly believed they were a family in Christ.  Unfortunately today, we have thousands of Christian sects claiming to be the one true Church of Christ. They distort Sacred Scripture in order to fit their heresies and attack one another in a false sense of religious zeal and piety.  These sects offer all kinds of false teachings and lure people in with entertainment and false promises of prosperity if they accept Christ (2 Timothy 4:3).  This is why we as Catholics must pray for unity and evangelize those who are outside of the visible Body of Christ, the Catholic Church.  However, we too must restore that image of the Church being a family.  How many times have we gone to Mass for years and have not even known the name of other parishioners?  We must try our best to be friendly with one another and accept one another as brothers and sisters (Romans 15:7).  Some try to use today's first reading to justify Communism or Socialism.  This is a bad interpretation. Sharing things is not socialism or communism.  It is being human. We are one family in God and should share. The Church herself is the Body of Christ with many members all functioning for the same purpose (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  The first reading emphasizes this. Each member of the Church community must care for one another. This care must also extend to those outside of the Church via the works of mercy (Matthew 25:31-45). As we do this, we spread around God's mercy to all and call others to repentance while giving thanks to God as today's Psalm states.

The responsorial Psalm for today beings with the phrase, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love is everlasting."  We recall in the Psalm how our ancestors in the house of Israel proclaimed God's mercy and goodness.  God was always there for His people (Psalm 73:23). The mercy God offers is eternal, always tugging at our stubborn hearts (Psalm 100:5). This mercy brings us to believe more and grow in faith.  Faith is extremely important as we read in the second reading.

In the second reading, we are reminded that our belief in Jesus makes us begotten by God. We become part of the Blessed Trinity, not as gods or deities, but as a family with God as our Father and creator. We must always obey God's commandments and remain in grace. By doing this, we demonstrate that we love God and will remain in God (John 14:15, John 15:10).  Today's second reading mentions the water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ when He was pierced by the lance (John 19:34). The image of the Divine Mercy demonstrates this vividly as beams of red and blue light emanating from the heart of Christ.  These represent the waters of Baptism and the Blood of Christ we receive in the Holy Eucharist.

Finally in the Gospel, we listen to the story that impacted me a lot as a former atheist. The disciples were locked behind doors afraid of the Jews. Jesus then appears to them out of nowhere. He tells them "peace be with you."  This would have been some sight.  Imagine if you were in a room locked and someone you thought was deceased appeared in the room and said "boo" to you. Would that not startle you? Anyhow, Jesus then shows them His hands and side to confirm to them that He was really the Lord who was crucified. He tells them that as the Father has sent Him so He will send them. This tells us that we take upon Jesus' ministry to bring truth. peace, love, joy, mercy, redemption and forgiveness to the world (Mark 16:15, 2 Corinthians 4:1).  We must spread the Gospel to all people and not stop speaking of what we have experienced in our faith (Acts 4:20). Christ then tells them that they will receive the Holy Spirit and will be able to forgive the sins of others. This is the birth of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Once again, Christ is showing us His Divine Mercy.  There is no sin that God will not forgive unless it is the sin against the Holy Spirit which is the sin of not trusting in God's mercy and therefore not repenting (Matthew 12:22-32, St. Augustine: Enchiridion lxxxiii, De Verb. Dom,. Serm. lxxi, De Serm. Dom. in Monte xxii). This does not mean that a sin is more powerful than God, no sin is (Isaiah 1:18, Isaiah 43:25-26, Hebrews 10:17).  What this does mean is that if we do not repent nor have any trust in God's mercy, then we close ourselves to forgiveness. So the problem here is not God somehow withholding mercy, but man abusing his free will and not opening himself to God's Divine Mercy.

Lastly, we read of Thomas called Didymus. He was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared so he was confused at what was going on. The others told him that they saw the Lord and he is incredulous of their story and states, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."    These words remind me of myself years ago as an atheist and skeptic, as well as my friends and those who I have encountered who are still atheists. We want to see "empirical" evidence of God. We will not believe until we "see the mark of the nails and put {a hand} into His side."  Thomas was echoing the words of atheists today. However, his doubts would not remain unchallenged. A week later, Jesus appears to the disciples again who were locked in a room. This time, Thomas was present and Jesus approaches him telling him, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Once Thomas does this he realizes that this man is really Christ and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!"  This is why I always state that atheism is part of religious belief, so to speak.  Like Thomas, atheists are open to belief. If they were not, then they would not be so fixated on the topics of God, faith, and religion. Have you ever wondered why atheists claim there is no God or claim to lack belief in one, yet that is all they talk about? This is interesting and I explore this here: (http://www.sacerdotus.com/2012/12/why-do-atheists-care-about-god.html).

This is an inner desire to search for God.  It is the "God gene" at work. In order for atheists to "find God," they must seek Him.  There is no other way.  No argument, no writings from apologists will ever truly present God to anyone. Only a humble heart who seeks God will encounter Him (Matthew 5:8). An atheist has to pray to God and invite Him in.  We who do believe must not believe solely based on "hard evidence" per se, but via love and trust. If you are married now or have a girlfriend or boyfriend, will you like it if your significant other demanded proof that you love him or her?  This would be a big turn off and would disrupt a relationship. It creates distrust and suspicion.  Similarly, if we only believe in God when He "shows Himself" or does something for us, then our relationship is not with God, but with His abilities or favors. This is why Jesus tells Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,"  We must not be like the fools who claim there is no God just because they cannot see Him (Psalm 14:1). We must believe and trust God always (Ephesians 6:16).  Ironically the image of the Divine Mercy has on the bottom, "Jesus I trust in you."  This faith opens us to the Divine Mercy that washes away our sins. We do not need to see, hear or touch God as we do one another in order to believe (2 Corinthians 5:7). I explore this further here: (http://www.sacerdotus.com/2012/11/no-evidence-for-god-therefore-no-god.html).  God is everywhere and His mercy extends to all. Blessed indeed are those who believe without seeing and who trust and spread the Divine Mercy of God.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041215.cfm

      

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