Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)
April 8, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Acts 4:32-35 / Ps 118 / 1 Jn 5:1-6 / Jn 20:19-31
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Happy Easter! Amen, Alleluia! If you are thinking, “This isn’t Easter,” you’d be wrong. Easter is too big to be celebrated in one day, so we celebrate and celebrate and celebrate. These eight days from last Sunday are the Octave of Easter, this being the last day, but it doesn’t end there. We actually celebrate the Easter season for fifty days. It is the summit of our faith, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Easter is why we are Christian, so we celebrate it appropriately.
Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a day we set aside to celebrate the mercy of God, because to know God we must understand His mercy. As I was preparing to preach today, I found an amazing source of inspiration. In 2016, during the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis did a yearlong series of catechesis on the subject of mercy during his Wednesday addresses. It is wonderful reading which I encourage you to look it up. Most of this homily is based on Pope Francis’ addresses.
In his very first address, Pope Francis started with the question: “Who is God?” He went to the source to answer this, the Scriptures. Here is the passage he quoted from the book of Exodus.
We take up the story after the Israelites have been freed from slavery in Egypt and are in the desert. Along the way they have had some difficulties. After Moses received the tablets of the Ten Commandments, he smashed them after getting angry when he came down from the mountain and saw what the Israelites were doing.
This story begins when God tells Moses that a new set of tablets must be made. So Moses prepares a new set of tablets and goes up the mountain. We pick up the story in chapter 34, verse 6: “Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God; slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.’” This is a wonderful description given by God himself. This same address is repeated throughout Scripture.
To understand God, we must understand mercy. The apparent paradox is “How do mercy and justice work together?” Some people will argue that these two attributes are not complementary, but they are, because God is merciful but He is also a God of justice.
Pope Francis has a beautiful reflection on this. He considers justice from two different perspectives. For example, when you are driving too fast you may get a ticket which includes paying a fine. This type of justice is what we normally talk about, punitive justice. In Pope Francis’ word, while this type of justice is necessary, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Punitive justice requires atonement and reparation- paying the debt to society – but this, at best, merely obstructs sin. It doesn’t resolve the root problem.
To get to the real problem we need justice with mercy the way God does it. God’s justice is different; it has a different aim. God’s justice aims to get to the root of the problem and correct it. God’s justice through mercy always has as its objective conversion of heart so that further justice isn’t necessary. Sin gets in the way; it leads us astray, but God always calls us back. He calls us back to communion with Him and He is always ready to receive us with mercy.
In the Bible, there are countless stories of God’s mercy. In Exodus, the Israelites began to worship idols, but God called them back through the work of Moses. In today’s reading, let’s look at the disciples. If God can forgive them, there’s hope for us! Almost all of them had deserted Jesus when he was arrested on Good Friday. God could have discarded those disciples and found new ones, but He didn’t. Jesus, after the Resurrection, presented Himself to the disciples and called them back through love with mercy. Think about Thomas in today’s gospel, who lacked faith: When Jesus presents Himself and calls him back, Thomas is the first one to declare that Jesus is Lord and God. Think about Peter: He denied Jesus three times, but Jesus calls him back three times.
God does the same thing for us, because God’s greatest mercy was to send His only Son to die on the cross, in reparation for our sins. He cleared the way for us to spend eternity with Him.
Through the blood and the water that poured from His side, by the mercy of God, we are cleansed and called back. At the end of the Easter season is Pentecost, which is the birthday of the Church. We are the Church. Now that we have received mercy, it is our job to share that mercy with all the people we meet in our daily lives.