“By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)*_
Today is called Divine Mercy Sunday. This is because, on this day, exactly one week after He rose from the dead, Jesus displayed the magnanimity of His Divine Mercy to the whole world by instituting the sacrament of Penance. Again, Jesus revealed to St. Maria Faustina that every Sunday after Easter should be dedicated to the celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy. What is Divine Mercy and how do we experience it in our world today?
*1. Divine Mercy is Peace from Above*
John tells us that the disciples were locked up in a room for fear of the Jews. The disciples shut the door against themselves hoping that the wooden bars and locks would keep them safe. Obviously, they were not at peace. They would have prayed but they were probably wondering how Jesus would react towards them knowing that on the night of His arrest, they fled for their dear lives.
To expose the futility of trusting in human devices for protection, Jesus appeared in their midst and the first thing He said was: “Peace be with you.” To assure them they were not saying a ghost, Jesus showed them His hands and His side and for the second time, said: “Peace be with you.” In other words, “have no fear, no need to panic, worry no more, relax.”
Today, Jesus is saying to every one of us again: “Peace be with you. Even if you have done things in the past that continue to trouble your mind, don’t worry. The past is past now. Your sins are forgiven. And if you are disturbed because of the fear of the Jews, (that is, the threats from your enemies), trust me, I am here for you, I am stronger than them. Receive my peace”
If you are not at peace today, it is because you refusing to accept God’s peace by trusting completely in Him. Each time you feel worried because of threats from others, remember to say that short prayer: “Jesus I trust in you.”
*2. Divine Mercy is God’s Forgiveness*
Jesus did not stop at peace, He went on to say: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…” This means that Jesus appeared on this Sunday to carry out a specific assignment He was sent to do. What is this assignment? To make it very easy for every one of us to receive forgiveness of our sins by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the ministers of the church. Breathing on the disciples, (an action that reminisces how God breathed on the first man at creation, and thereby indicating a new birth; a special anointing) said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
In one stroke, Jesus created a new sacrament and also specially empowered the disciples to stand in His place to forgive the sins of men. When Jesus healed the paralytic, He said to him: “Your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees murmured: “Only God can forgive sins.” This is true. Only God can forgive sins and Jesus wanted them to know that He is God, hence He said “Your sins are forgiven.” On this occasion, Jesus was now transferring this power that only God has to His disciples.
When you go for confession and a priest says: “Your Sins are Forgiven” know that you are enjoying the Divine Mercy of God because the priest has received the Holy Spirit at ordination and has been empowered by Jesus to forgive sins. In the sacrament of penance, you are not confessing to a man, you are confessing to someone who has been reborn through the breath of Jesus as we read in today’s Gospel passage.
Of course, just as the Pharisees doubted if Jesus is God and if he truly has the power to forgive sins, there are many today who doubt if the priest possesses such power. Let us not be faithless, let us rush to take advantage of this special grace. Each time you see a priest, please ask for confession, and tap into this great Easter gift.
*3. Divine Mercy is God’s Self Revelation*
Another way God shows us mercy is by coming down to our level, that is He humiliates Himself just to make us believe and trust Him. Thomas was not with them that Sunday and when he was told what happened, he said: “Unless I see the holes in his hands and place my finger in the mark of the nails, I will not believe.” Indeed, just as He said, Jesus appeared the next Sunday and said to Thomas, “Come put your finger here and see my hands, place it in my side, see for yourself, I am for real.”
Thomas’ experience is not unique to him alone. In the course of history, there have been thousands of examples of people who challenged the existence of God and acted like Thomas only for God to match their words by giving them reasons to believe. Instead of condemning those who refuse to believe in Him, God has a way of showing Himself to them. This is simply Divine Mercy at work.
However, as Jesus says to us today: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” If you decide to limit your faith only to signs and wonders or only to what is written in the Bible, you are just another Thomas. In fact, our Gospel passage today tells us that the Bible does not contain everything we need to know about Jesus. (John 20:31 & John 21:25).
*4. Divine Mercy is Love and Sharing With One Another*
Our first reading today presents the story of the early Christian community or the first church so to say. It tells us how the Christians so loved each other that they were united both in faith, in reverence of the apostles, and especially in terms of their shared possessions. We are told that “they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” This again is Divine Mercy at work, that we can experience the love and providence of God through the love and sharing of our fellow Christian believers.
If you have ever been helped by someone just because you are a Christian or a member of the church, then you have partaken in God’s Divine Mercy. But even if you have never been helped before, even if no one has shown you any form of kindness on the basis of your Christian identity, take it that God is calling you today to help someone.
Be an agent of Divine Mercy; show love to that brother or sister that is genuinely in need. God blessed you not to “pepper others” (show them that you have arrived) but to be a blessing to others. that which you have in excess belongs to the hungry, the less privileged, the hopeless, etc.
*5. Divine mercy is Joy in the Midst of Trials*
St. Paul admonishes us in today’s second reading: “In this, you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
As we celebrate Divine Mercy today, the events of our society, (the sad realities of life) continue to hit us hard in the face. We only have to continue reminding ourselves that even though things are not as we wish, God has never and will never abandon us. God’s mercy is still at work in the world. No matter how bad things are for you, call on God with faith and trust.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, deepen my trust in your mercy and make me more merciful. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 2:42-47, Ps. 118:2-4,13-15,22-24, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31)*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu