2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 (1)
1 Peter 1:3-9
The disciples are in distress. A lot has happened in the last few days for them. They had come to believe that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They thought He would get rid of the Romans.
Instead, Jesus was arrested and put on trial. He was beaten, mocked, scourged, and crucified. This was devastating to them. They didn’t understand.
Now, now Jesus’ tomb has been found empty. Yes, Jesus spoke of the Resurrection but the disciples didn’t wholly understand the Resurrection. So, the empty tomb brought more distress.
What did the disciples do?
The good news is that they do not scatter and stop believing in Jesus. They gathered together. However, they do so behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” They knew were afraid that those who had Jesus crucified would do the same to them. So, they locked the doors.
There, in the locked room, ‘Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”’
Jesus knew their fears. In his mercy, He came to them to bring peace.
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter. St. Pope John Paul II set this day as Divine Mercy Sunday. Sometimes we think of God’s mercy solely in terms of his forgiveness. God’s mercy is more than just forgiveness. It is his love for us.
In his love for his disciples Jesus came to them offering peace. He knew they did not understand his Crucifixion and Resurrection. He shows them “his hands and his side” so they could see the nail marks and where his side was pierced so that the disciples would know that it is him, the same Jesus who was crucified.
Peter writes in the second reading, “our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus.” Jesus came to the disciples to do just this, to give the disciples, to give us hope.
There was one disciple who was not there in the locked room, Thomas. The other disciples tell him what has happened. He does not believe. He says he must see and touch Jesus to believe.
Before we rush to judge Thomas for his doubt, put yourselves in his shoes. Jesus had been crucified. Thomas didn’t understand that. No one had ever been resurrected before. What the disciples tell Thomas would seem impossible. Could they be sharing in a hallucination? Thomas had reason to doubt their story (this is not the same as doubting Jesus).
Jesus knew how Thomas felt. A week later, Jesus comes again to the disciples in the locked room, again offering them peace. This time Thomas is with them.
Jesus immediately speaks to Thomas. He does not judge Thomas. He does not condemn Thomas for his doubt. In his mercy, Jesus invites Thomas, “Put your finder here and see my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side.” Jesus wants to help Thomas believe.
Thomas immediately believes, saying, “My Lord and my God!”
In his mercy, Jesus wants everyone to believe in him, not just those who have seen the Risen Jesus for themselves. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
2,000 years later we have not seen the Risen Jesus for ourselves but we do believe. We know that “His mercy endures forever.”
This does not mean that life is not without its challenges. As Peter wrote, “you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
We face trials in this life. What’s challenging for one person may not be for another. We have different trials but we all have some trial. Do we make Jesus the cornerstone of our lives, is Jesus what we center our lives on so that we have a solid foundation when we face trials?
I spoke earlier of how the disciples were in a locked room “for fear of the Jews.” Fear can be a powerful motivator. Fear can be a good thing. For instance, we learn to fear being burned by fire. This fear leads us to act in a way to protect us from being burned while still being around fire.
Right now, “fear” of contracting the Coronavirus can lead us to smart “social distancing.” God wants us to take care of ourselves. So, we stay home. When we need to go out, we practice social distancing.
However, one might take the fear too far, becoming paralyzed by it. There is where we need to turn to Jesus for “living hope”. Jesus who is merciful will give us hope.
What other fears do you have in your life? Do your fears motivate you (with the gift of reason that God gives us) to act wisely? Or do they cripple you?
Our psalm today (118) speaks of another fear, fearing the Lord. Sometimes I struggle with the idea of fearing the Lord. God is all loving. God is merciful. I do not fear God as I fear a human being attacking me or fear danger from something like fire.
God is all powerful. God could hurt me but I know God does not want to hurt me. God could punish us harshly. People do end up in Hell but that is because of their lack of repentance. God is merciful.
Fearing God’s punishment can be a powerful motivator to get us to stop sinning. However, there is another way of looking at “fear” when it comes to fearing the Lord.
God is indeed all powerful and all knowing. God is infinite. We think of God and see the infinite greatness of God. This leads us to “awe.” Our “awe” of God then leads us to proclaim, “My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.” Thus, God is with us as we face our fears, whatever they may be.
God is always with us. We might feel like we are stuck behind locked doors at home right now. Maybe we have a completely different fear that makes us feel locked up and alone.
We are not alone. We pray for one another, united in spirit.
We are not alone. In his mercy, Jesus comes to each of us who make him our cornerstone and cry out, “My Lord and my God.”