Sunday of Divine Mercy
April 11, 2021 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Parish in Naples, FL
Acts 4, 32-35 + Psalm 118 + 1 John 5, 1-6 + John 20, 19-31
An excerpt from St. Faustina’s Diary says it well: “Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ soul and come to their rescue.”
Our Church has declared this day to be the Sunday of Divine Mercy, and with memories of Easter still fresh in our minds, we pick up the Gospel of John almost where we left off last week to reflect upon what God is doing among us and to express our gratitude for the gift of God’s Mercy. There is a risk with this celebration that can lead us away from whole purpose of Mercy Sunday. That risk is simply that some might think this is a day to pray for God’s mercy. I don’t think so. There is no need to pray asking to God be something other than what God already is. In spite of the fact that we often begin our sacred liturgy by crying out: “Lord, Have Mercy”, we are not begging. That’s not what why we say those words. We are proclaiming that a merciful God has already had mercy up on. It is an acclamation about the reason for our assembly: to give thanks for the mercy of God that got us through another week. We cannot say those words out of habit or just memory because that’s just what we do. We must worship intelligently, alert and mindful of who we are and what we are called to become.
The purpose and point of Divine Mercy Sunday then is to inspire or remind us that we who have been so mercifully gifted by faith and God’s forgiveness must become mercy itself just as Jesus was the very incarnation of the Father’s mercy. I am praying today for you to be merciful to me in spite of all my faults and failings. God already has been. I believe that. I am also praying that I will be mercy to everyone I meet no matter how I feel or what’s going on.
Mercy, is a quality of the Divine. The Greek word for Mercy means to get into another’s skin. As we sometimes put it in English, it means to walk in the shoes of another. That is what God did through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God got into our skin, seeing things through our eyes, feeling them with our heart, knowing them through our experience. That is the only way mercy can work. We become the merciful when we begin to see, feel and experience what another sees, feels and experiences. When we do, mercy is easy. This day is about our mercy because God is mercy.
When Jesus was suddenly in that room as we heard today, it knocked the breath out of those disciples. All they knew was that the body of Jesus was not where they left it. They were fractured and frightened. In spite of what Mary Magdala had said, they did not believe her so deep was their doubt and their disrespect for the testimony of a woman.
Having gathered there in fear and sadness, it is almost impossible to image how they felt and what their Joy was really like. I guess it would be what we might experience if someone we loved deeply suddenly was with us talking to us again after we had buried them. John tells us that Jesus breathed on them. It was a moment that brought them back to life just as God had once breathed on all that was created.
And then comes his final request, forgive. That is the finest gift of love, forgiveness. It is the most essential and necessary expression of love, the ability, the desire, and the readiness to forgive. That is what Jesus was doing in that room, he forgave them for leaving him, for denying him, for not listening to him, and for wanting to do things their own way. Forgiveness is the ultimate expression mercy. In a family and in a society, it can inspire and encourage radical change. It is the only way to Peace. It is the only way we can finally live as God intended, in peace.