THEME: DIVINE MERCY
READINGS: Acts 4:32-35/ 1 John 5:1-7/ John 20:19-31
2nd Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Mercy is “a kind or forgiving attitude towards somebody that you have the power to harm or right to punish”. Therefore, Divine mercy is God’s kind or forgiving attitude towards us who deserve His punishment due to our sins. Whereas sin creates a gap or valley between us and God, His loving mercy bridges the gap. For this reason, Pope Francis says that Divine mercy is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”. Thus, because of Divine mercy, other blessings of God can reach down to us, and our petitions can crossover to heaven.
THE FACE OF THE FATHER’S MERCY
To bridge the gap between the holy God and sinful humanity, the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us (cf. John 3:16). As both Divine and human, Jesus Christ has become the perfect and eternal bridge between God and humans. Furthermore, whoever sees Jesus sees God the Father (cf. John 14:9). By implication, then, we see or experience the mercy of God the Father in the person of Jesus, His words and actions. Thus, according to Pope Francis, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. … Jesus of Nazareth, by His words, His actions, and His entire person reveals the mercy of God”. In other words, Divine Mercy “has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth.”
DIVINE MERCY IN THE PASSION OF JESUS
Divine mercy was very visible in the words and actions of Jesus during the difficult days of His agony and passion. Let us look at some instances:
- Jesus knew before the Last Supper that Judas would betray Him, that Peter would deny Him three times and that the rest of His disciples would desert Him. This notwithstanding, Jesus demonstrated Divine mercy by overlooking such terrible offences of those who were supposed to be His most trusted friends, dined with them and washed their feet.
- Because of Divine mercy, Jesus, though He knew that Peter would betray Him, prayed that his faith may not fail (cf. Luke 22:31).
- Because of Divine mercy, Jesus would restore the severed ear of the high priest’s servant who had accompanied the enemies to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:50-51).
- In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus demonstrated that His mere words were more powerful than the troop of armed soldiers, for they fell to the ground when He spoke (cf. John 18:3-6). Hence, He had the power to cripple those hands which were raised to slap, scourge and crown Him with thorns. He had the power to dislocate the hands which lifted the hammers to nail Him. Yet in all these, He chose to remain powerless, because of Divine mercy.
- By the favour of Divine mercy, Jesus would overlook the crimes of the repentant thief and offer him the eternal glory and joy of Paradise (cf. Luke 23:40-43).
- Because of Divine mercy, Jesus, while in great pains on the cross, would seek the Father’s forgiveness for those who betrayed, denied, deserted, falsely accused, mercilessly tortured, unjustly condemned, heartlessly crucified and unfairly mocked Him (cf. Luke 23:34).
Beloved, it should be obvious that Jesus made Divine mercy visible in His agony and passion. If, however, Divine mercy was not obvious to the disciples at that moment, Jesus would make it more evident on the evening of the Lord’s resurrection. Thus, instead of settling scores with those who had denied or deserted Him, He would rather pronounce the assuring words of forgiveness and reconciliation: “Peace be with you” (John 20:21).
DIVINE MERCY TODAY
Beloved, when our Lord Jesus was dared by the chief priests, scribes and others to get down from the cross, He refused to do so (cf. Mark 15:29-32), because His eyes of mercy saw things the crowd at Calvary did not see. That is, though His eyes of mercy were dimmed by extreme pains and covered with His blood, our Lord saw clearly into the past, the present and the future. For the past, Jesus saw the souls of all the holy souls who had died before Him and were eagerly waiting to be saved by His sacrifice. For the present (as He is hung on the cross), He saw in the crowd at Calvary and, beyond them, the millions across the world then who needed the mercy of God. Then, for the future, Jesus saw the thousands of generations of people (including you and me) that would come after His resurrection and ascension – people who would need God’s mercy and forgiveness. For all these people, our Lord humbly and mercifully decided to die on the cross.
So, even today, because of His great mercy, Jesus continues to wash the feet of those who betray, deny or desert Him. Indeed, Jesus knows that after washing, not our mere feet, but our souls in baptism, we will sometimes deny Him by not confidently or publicly expressing our faith in God; or we will sometimes desert Him by our unfaithfulness, yet He washes away our sins.
Furthermore, even today, because of His great mercy, Jesus continues to feed those who betray, deny or desert Him. Jesus knows that after feeding us with His most precious Body and Blood, we will sometimes betray, deny or desert Him, yet He continues to feed us, because of His great mercy.
Beloved, no sin is beyond the forgiveness of God. We should, therefore, not allow the gravity of our guilt to overwhelm us. Thus, Pope Francis reassures us: God’s “mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive”. Let us, therefore, approach the God of mercy, and confess our sins however grievous they may be.
DIVINE MERCY IS INFECTIOUS
Like a virus – a good virus, of course – Divine mercy should be infectious. That is, those who experience Divine mercy should spontaneously become carriers of God’s mercy to others. Hence, according to today’s gospel reading, after Jesus had forgiven the Apostles, He entrusted them with the ministry of bringing others to encounter God’s mercy. Thus, He told them “Receive the Holy Spirit; for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:22-23).
Therefore, beloved, as much as we enjoy God’s kindness and forgiveness in spite of our many and repeated sins, we should become ambassadors of God’s mercy:
- By telling family, friends and other neighbours that God’s kindness and forgiveness abound in spite of our sins, and
- By actually showing kindness and forgiveness to those who trespass against us; for our Lord Jesus exhorts us: “Be merciful, just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful”(Luke 6:36).
Beloved, Divine mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved by God despite our sinfulness. And the cross of Jesus has become the visible bridge of God’s mercy. Indeed, so merciful is Jesus that even in the most painful hours of His life, He forgave us our sins. In Him, we continue to experience Divine mercy today. Such a favour should be infectious. Therefore, let us lead others to experience the mercy of God and forgive those who trespass against us. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis