Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday of Divine Mercy

We are now in the Easter season of the Church's liturgical calendar. During this time, the first reading is from the New Testament and not the Old.  This is done to reflect the new covenant taking hold after Jesus resurrected.

In the first reading, we read of the many miracles that happened via the hands of the apostles.  The people carried out their sick and laid them on mats just so Peter's shadow can fall on them.  When his shadow fell on them, the people were healed. We see Sacramentals at work!  This reading tells us what happened after Jesus' resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The apostles were no longer those timid men who ran after Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:50).  They were brave men full of faith and witness to their teacher Christ. To ensure the faith of the people and attraction of others, God performed many miracles via the apostles using unconventional means such as handkerchiefs and shadows (Acts 19:11-12).  These miracles brought the people to thank God just as we read in today's Responsorial Psalm.

We must always give thanks to the Lord, not only because He is the Lord, but because He is good and His love endures forever!  This Psalm today is one of my favorites and shows an early litany. Some of our separated brethren in the Protestant faith attack Catholics because we use litanies. They call it "vain-repetitious prayer." However, we see in this Psalm that repetition is good and not vain.  Praising God while repeating certain things is not vain nor bad. We must thank God because His mercy endures forever.  In this year of Mercy and on this Divine Mercy Sunday we must not forget this and should meditate on it. God is merciful.  He forgives and loves (Romans 5:8).  We should shout with joy like a shout of victory.  We should praise the stone which the builders rejected and which has become the cornerstone: Jesus.

The second reading reminds of the victory of Christ over death. He holds the keys to death and the netherworld. Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead (Romans 14:9).  We get apocalyptic imagery describing the gloried Lord surrounded by seven gold lamp stands, seven symbolizes perfection.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 14:6). There is no one else from which we get saved (Acts 4:12).  We must not be afraid as we read in the reading.  God is love and loves all of His creation. We have nothing to fear only the loss of God's presence and love.

Finally in the Gospel, we read of Jesus appearing to the apostles and telling them "Peace be with you." He shows them His hands and side to prove it was really Him. Then He promises them the Holy Spirit and gives them the power to forgive sins.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is officially born, so to speak.  In this year of Mercy and Divine Mercy Sunday, we should focus on asking God for mercy and going to confession, daily if possible. Priests have the power to absolve sins.  This is not something the Church made up.  It comes directly from Jesus Himself.

We then see a part that really spoke to me as a former atheist. Thomas, called Didymus was not present when Jesus appeared.  When he arrived, they told him that Jesus was present, but he did not believe them.  Like an atheist, he needed 'evidence.' He was a materialist who needed to see the mark of the nails in His hands and needed to touch the wounds in order to believe.  A week had passed and the disciples were together and this time Thomas was present.  Jesus came into the room though the doors were locked and told them once again, "Peace be with you."  Jesus being God knew what had happened the week before in regards to Thomas and told 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."  Thomas immediately answered, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus then says, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  How blessed are those indeed who believe in God yet have not seen Him. Atheists often criticize believers for their 'blind faith.' They believe without seeing. However, believers seen via faith which is a higher state or perception. Faith brings the mind, heart, soul and senses to perceive what is beyond space, time and matter (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Faith is not easy to process (Hebrews 11).  The late Mother Angelica who passed away last Easter Sunday said, “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”  The figure of Thomas in the Gospels to me represents atheists and agnostics who need to see to believe.  We do not need to see Jesus as a human walking before us in order to believe just like we do not need to see George Washington before us in order to believe he existed and was the United States' first president. We are smarter than that.  The Gospel ends telling us that Jesus did other things that were not recorded. All of these things were done in order to bring others to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us ask God for forgiveness and seek His mercy.  Let us be merciful towards our brothers and sisters in the world.  May Jesus Christ be praised.


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