Saturday, April 14, 2007

Divine Mercy Sunday

On the first Easter Sunday evening, Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” This is the great good news of the richness of God’s mercy—that, in return for all of our sins and violence and unbelief, God in the Risen Lord gives us just one thing: peace.

Therefore it’s wholly appropriate that on this second Sunday of Easter we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, the great feast of Mercy instituted by our Holy Father John Paul II. So let us rejoice in God’s mercy! As John the Evangelist says of the disciples, “they rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” So let us rejoice as we encounter Jesus Christ risen into the new life of this assembly, and risen into the bread and wine we receive as the Body of the Lord broken for our salvation and as his Precious Blood, poured out over the world for the forgiveness of sins.

Consider how this is displayed in the famous image of Jesus the Divine Mercy. It shows the Risen Lord touching his heart—and from his heart come forth two rays of light, one white and one red. These are the water and the blood that came forth from the side of Christ on the Cross when he was pierced in death by the soldier’s lance.

On the Cross these were just water and blood. But in the Resurrection, in Jesus Christ risen from the dead, the water becomes the waters of our baptism. And the blood from Jesus’ side becomes the blood of the Eucharist, through which we are made sharers in his new and eternal covenant.

This is the key to this famous image of the Risen Lord we call the Divine Mercy. From the heart of Jesus, in the utter generosity of God, the waters of baptism and the blood of the new and eternal covenant flow out over the world.

But as we gratefully recall the great mercy of God in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, we must always remember that the only appropriate response is to become merciful ourselves. The personal religious experiences of St. Faustina Kowalska form the basis of Divine Mercy Sunday, as well as of the Divine Mercy devotion. And the Lord said to St. Faustina, in no uncertain terms, “You must show mercy to your neighbor out of love for me, and you must not try to excuse yourself from it.”

Having gentleness and mercy for the people around us is the only adequate response to the great mercy that God has given to us in Jesus Christ. If we want people to see the good news of Jesus Christ, risen again from the sufferings of his Passion and death, we must allow him to be raised into our com-passion for each other!

Note how this is exactly what the apostles were doing in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Having experienced the Resurrection of Christ, and drawing new life from this great revelation of mercy, they turn to those in need. The sick and the disturbed, they were all cured by the power of the Risen Lord present in the faith and zeal of the apostles. And this is our task too, as the apostles that God has sent into this suffering and tired world. As God has had such mercy on us, giving us new life in the waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist, may we give our life and blood to the service of others in mercy.

Do you want to see the risen Jesus as the apostles did? Then insist, like our friend doubting Thomas, on putting your finger into the nail marks and your hand into the wound in Jesus’ side. There is so much hurt and sickness and fear in the world, we are bound to encounter someone who is suffering. They are the suffering Christ for us. Be with them. Take care of them, and comfort them. In this way you put your own hand into the wound of Christ and allow Jesus to be raised into your own compassion.

And, hopefully, when we see the Lord in the compassion that God puts between us and the other, we will step back in awe like Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!”

Once we have had mercy on and compassion for our neighbor, once we have put our hands into the wounded side of Christ, we will be able to say in the words of that old prayer, the Anima Christi, “wounds of Christ, hide me!”

By encountering the suffering around us with openness and a desire to help, we allow, in our own selves, mercy and compassion to be resurrected in the world. And we will see the suffering of the world transformed into the wounds of Christ, from which the new creation is born in the waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist.

May we be merciful, as God has shown us his Divine Mercy. By the courage that the Spirit of God gives, we can show the new hope of the Resurrection to a tired and despairing world.

(2nd Sunday of Easter, C)

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