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2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday
Christ is risen, He has won victory over sin and death. As He said to the Father from the Cross, His redemptive work “is finished.” Jesus has done His part, now we must do ours. When Jesus appeared to the apostles, He offered them Peace and forgiveness of sins; sending them out to extend His peace and forgiveness to the world.
Thomas missed the opportunity to encounter the risen Christ. However, the apostles shared the Good News with him and offered the peace and hope that Christ had shared with them. Thomas refused to accept it. He refused to accept the authoritative word of the apostles and refused the joy and graces of the resurrection. Despite the numerous prophecies of Jesus that this would happen, or Thomas’ witness of Jesus’ power to raise the dead (even very recently with Lazarus), and ignoring the unanimous testimony of his fellow apostles, Thomas demanded to see it for himself before he would submit.
St. John shares with us that Thomas was also called “Didymus”, or “twin.” How many of us could claim to be Thomas’ twin? We might be passionate about serving Christ, crying out “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16), but we struggle to resurrect with Christ. Maybe we can accept that He has poured out His mercy in the lives of others, but we need to see it to believe it to accept it for ourselves.
When we truly realize the gravity of sin, especially our own sin, our feelings of shame and regret can challenge our trust in Jesus. It’s easy to say, “Jesus died for our sins”; it’s much harder to believe “Jesus forgives me of this particular sin.” That shame and regret then spirals further, making it seem impossible to begin anew. “There can be no fresh start for me”, we say, then fruitlessly endeavor to redeem ourselves or despair altogether and give up.
If you struggle with overcoming shame and self-doubt by accepting the mercy of Christ, you are not alone. Despite Thomas’ disbelief, Jesus mercifully appeared to him that he might believe and receive the gift of peace and life. In 1931 Jesus appeared to a humble Polish nun, St. Faustina, asking her to spread the message of His mercy anew. Jesus lamented to Faustina that distrust on the part of souls caused His greatest suffering. Jesus burns with love for us and sacrificed to save us, but we cannot be saved if we refuse His love and mercy. He appeared to her many times after that, with a message of mercy He wanted made known. He asked for an image to be painted of Him, with two rays coming forth from His side – white and red – representing the water and blood which poured out of His side from the Cross, and the words “Jesus I Trust in You” beneath. We receive Jesus’ redemptive mercy through the sacraments when we are washed in the waters of baptism and united to Him in the sacrament of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He also asked that a Feast of Mercy be instituted, to be a day of extraordinary graces and an opportunity for us to make an act of trust and abandon so that He could be free to pour out His transformative love.
St. John Paul II perceived the truth and wisdom of Jesus’ message to St. Faustina. He affirmed her sanctity when he canonized her in the year 2000 and established the requested Feast of Divine Mercy as the Sunday following Easter. St. John Paul II witnessed the misery and despair caused by atheism – promoted by communism in his youth, and consumerism in his older age. He worked tirelessly to the very end, to exhort us to trust in Jesus. Even when Parkinson’s reduced him to a wheelchair and frustrated his speech, he proclaimed the Good News that Christ loves us and can purify us.
I remember the last time I saw John Paul II. I attended a Wednesday audience at St. Peter’s in 2002. The formerly vibrant, strong, energetic, outdoorsy pope had to be wheeled out on stage. He personally delivered his message even though his words slurred making it difficult to understand, and bits of drool forced their way down his mouth. I remember thinking, “what courage, what humility, what determination!” No matter how hard his body fought against him, John Paul II proclaimed the Gospel of Christ with conviction. George Weigel fittingly titled JPII’s biography as Witness to Hope. Even on his death bed, thousands gathered outside the window to his room and millions (including me) held vigil while viewing it on TV.
St. John Paul II knew our struggle to accept Christ’s mercy and did everything he could to make that merciful love felt. Pope Francis also perceived this problem and called a Jubilee Year of Mercy (2016) to renew the message in a powerful and universal way.
Like Thomas, many of us want to see mercy to believe it. Jesus wants us to believe without seeing. Yet, He graciously gives us something akin to sight periodically, as He did for Thomas, condescending even further to meet our weakness. Moreover, the more we, His Mystical Body, show kindness to others, the more visible Christ’s mercy will be to the world.
Today, on this Feast of Divine Mercy, let us be strengthened by the witnesses of hope that Christ has sent to us. Let us take a leap of faith, and trust Christ with total abandon. He invites us to receive His mercy in the sacraments of Confession and Communion where His blood is poured out in our soul to free us from sin and free us to love.
- When have you experienced mercy?
- In prayer or at church, did you experience the peace of Christ?
- After Confession, have you experienced the feeling of joy?
- Have you experienced emotional or material support from someone when you were in need?
- Do you find it difficult to accept help from others? Why do you think that is?
- Do you find it hard to accept unconditional love from Christ? Do you struggle with feelings of needing to earn His love or be perfect before you can be saved? Pray about what underlies that resistance:
- Is it pride – you want to feel worthy of friendship with the Lord?
- Is it despair – you don’t believe Christ can accept you as you are?
- Is it past wounds that need healing – you have been denied mercy by others or your understanding of your dignity has been chipped away by abuse or patterns of toxic thinking?
- Reflect on the freedom and joy of unconditional, merciful love.
- Offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving if you have experienced this.
- If you haven’t experienced it, consider the example of people you know who have. What do you notice about how it affects their perspective, their choices, their demeanor, and the quality of their life?
- Who might you extend merciful love to? What relationships in your life have too many conditions?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Each day this week, pray the words “Jesus I Trust in You,” multiple times throughout the day.
- Read a psalm of praise each day, strengthening and proclaiming your belief in God’s love for you. (Try beginning with Psalm 139).
- Resolve on one way to be a person of mercy each day. Decide on who, what, when, and where you can be an encounter with Christ’s merciful love to them.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019
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