Acts of the Apostles 2, 42-27 + Psalm 118 + 1 Peter 1, 3-9 + John 20, 19-31
April 16, 2023 at St. William & St. Peter Churches in Naples, FL
The tomb is open and empty. The room is locked but full. There is a deliberate contrast here in John’s mind as he continues the Gospel, and we should not miss this subtle message. Locked in a room out of fear, the one who has broken from a tomb comes to set them free; not just free from their fear, but free for the mission he is handing over to them. When we look for a way of describing or naming that “mission” it can only be called, “The Mission of Mercy.”
When we begin to understand that mercy is verb not a noun, the mission with which we have been entrusted becomes clearer. In other words, “mercy” is not something you get, earn, or possess. It is something you do. Mercy is what Jesus did on this earth, and mercy is what Jesus expects us to continue. Mercy is action, not an emotional feeling. It is real, a concrete, generous response to the needs of another. As we see mercy in action it is not a response to those who deserve it either. The mercy revealed to us through the action of Jesus and through his parables is indiscriminate. A disrespectful and selfish son receives a welcome home. An enemy Samaritan is cared for generously by a passerby. Some don’t even have to ask like a widow about to bury her only son who sees him brought back to life. She never even asked. It nearly overwhelms me to think what this means for us. We don’t deserve anything when we are honest with ourselves, yet we have found a God whose mercy toward us knows no end.
As we gather in the coming weeks to continue our celebration of the Resurrection, we will hear again and again about the appearance of Jesus. These reports are not to prove the resurrection. They describe for us the gradual transformation of disciples into apostles. It’s a transformation from a passive learner to an active servant, and what “fires that up” if you’ll excuse the pun, is the Holy Spirit finishing the job on Pentecost.
My friends, it does no good for God or for us to observe “Mercy Sunday” thinking that “mercy” is all about God. Because “Mercy” is the very nature of God, and therefore the very nature of the Church and its members. Mercy comes to us with an uncomfortable grace. It is the grace of a vocation. We are called to step out of the fears, the locked-up rooms, narrow, exclusive ways of thinking, out of old habits and our privileged lives to be what God is and to do what God is still doing through his son.
We can’t ask for mercy, my friends, until we give it. When that happens, it will come back to us a hundred-fold.