Last Sunday we heard that the tomb of Jesus was empty. That was Easter Sunday.
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter. Today we hear how Jesus appeared to his disciples to show them that He is indeed risen. It is not just our souls that go to Heaven. If we believe in Jesus, we will all rise body and soul in the Resurrection.
I said today is the Second Sunday of Easter. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II designated this Sunday to also be Divine Mercy Sunday.
When we hear the word “mercy”, our thoughts might turn to the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is an important part of God’s mercy. Knowing our need for forgiveness, Jesus first died for our sins. Then, during his appearance in the locked room, Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins.
We need mercy in the world today. Pope John Paul II knew this when he named this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. Likewise, Pope Francis also understood the need for mercy today when he proclaimed a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
However, God’s mercy is not only about God’s forgiveness. At the core of the message of Divine Mercy that came through St. Faustina is that God loves us.
Jesus died because God loves us.
Jesus appeared to his disciples in the locked room out of mercy because He knew they were confused and did not understand what had happened. A week later, Jesus appeared again when Thomas was in the room. Jesus knew Thomas did not believe what the other disciples told him about Jesus’ appearance. Jesus appeared to Thomas not to condemn him but to help him believe. Jesus appeared to Thomas because of God’s Divine Mercy.
Jesus “said to them, “Peace be with you” because He knew they were all struggling and confused. In his mercy, He offered them peace.
Part of us receiving God’s Divine Mercy is to share it with others. It begins with forgiving others. Think of the words we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
However, our call to share God’s Divine Mercy is not only about forgiveness. In calling for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wanted everyone to realize that “mercy” is about the way we treat others.
One of the books published by the Vatican for the Jubilee Year of Mercy was entitled, The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy come from Matthew 25:31-46 and call us to perform physical acts of mercy to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. There are a total of seven Corporal Works of Mercy. There are also seven Spiritual Works (found in various scripture passes) like “instructing the ignorant” and “comforting the sorrowful” (for a more detailed discussion on the works of mercy, please see my video presentation at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/video—the-journey-to-jesus–acts-of-mercy.html).
Sometimes we are the ones in need of corporal and spiritual works of mercy and sometimes we are the ones called to perform these acts of mercy. Both require us to trust God. When we need help, we can trust God to provide. When we are called to perform works of mercy, we might feel lacking. Here, we are called to trust God to provide whatever we need to do as He asks.
Jesus greeted his disciples with “Peace be with you.” This “peace” is what we seek. It is not simply the absence of war and violence. No, the peace that Jesus offers is a deep peace.
As part of his message of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina, Jesus told her, “Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy.”
The message of Divine Mercy is meant for everyone. In the second reading, John found himself “on the island called Patmos.” Patmos was a penal colony. He was sent there by humans for giving testimony to Jesus. I would imagine that God sees this as an opportunity for John to proclaim Divine Mercy to other prisoners.
Jesus offered the message of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina in early 20th century Poland. That was not the beginning of Divine Mercy. Jesus himself showed Divine Mercy in curing the sick, driving out demons, and dying for us on the Cross.
God’s mercy goes back even further. God has always been merciful. Our psalm today repeats, “His mercy endures forever” three times. (Psalm 136 repeats “for his mercy endures forever” over and over.)
We give thanks that “his mercy endures forever” whether it be his forgiveness, his compassion for our physical needs, or his help spiritually, we “give thanks to the Lord for he is good.”
God is always merciful. Our experience of Divine Mercy begins in Baptism. It continues always. Knowing of God’s Divine Mercy, we can pray the words found on the image of Divine Mercy, “Jesus, I trust in you.”