Today, our Catholic Churches around the world celebrate “Divine Mercy Sunday.” This Feast that follows Easter Sunday was introduced by pope St John Paul II in 2001. This Feast of the Divine Mercy Sunday is a celebration of our Lord’s unconditional Love that forgives us of all our sins and our Lord’s Compassion Love that reaches out to all peoples who are suffering in the world regardless of who they are.
In the celebration of our Lord’s unconditional Love that forgives us of all our sins, we have Jesus, the Son of God taking upon Himself all our sins and the sins of the world, so that all peoples can be saved. For this to happen, there is a great price that Jesus has to pay and a reality that He has to accept. Firstly, for Jesus, there is the divine humility of accepting His Father’s Will to be Incarnated and to become one like us, fully human in every way, except sin. Secondly, in proclaiming and revealing His Father’s Will, as Good News of Salvation, Jesus, our Lord willingly paid the price of the intense suffering and Death through being Crucified as a criminal on the Cross. And, thirdly, through His Death, He rises on the third day, to destroy sin and death, and offers us eternal life; that all who repent of his and her sins, and accepts Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and lives the life of the Love of the Gospel, will then live forever, in glory with God and all the saints in heaven.
In today’s Gospel account, Jesus, Our Risen Lord appears to His disciples in the upper room, breathes on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” If we reflect on our lives, all of us, without exception have to admit that we are sinners; Pope Francis, in his wisdom is the first to admit this, when he was elected to be the pope.
And so clearly, all of us, are in need of God’s Merciful and Forgiving Love. Jesus in today’s Gospel is saying to you and to me, “I want to forgive you because I love all of you without exception; open your hearts to my Divine Mercy; be freed of all your sins; return to me and accept My Father’s Will to be saved. Do you want to accept this divine gift from My Father?”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Truth of today’s Divine Mercy Sunday celebration is like someone offering us pure and fresh water to drink, when we find ourselves lost in a desert and dying of thirst. It is obvious that we should accept the gift and be grateful; for the gift of the drink of water will save our lives. Likewise, it is obvious that you and I should accept the gift of Salvation that God our Father, /through the Divine Mercy of His Son is offering us the gift of Salvation. To reject this gift is to choose suffering and death upon ourselves, but to accept this divine gift is to choose life, liberation from our sins and living in God’s Peace, Joy and Love.
Sad to say, while all of us and all peoples in the world should accept this gift of Salvation, many of us, millions in the world continue to choose to live in the darkness of sin, misery and eventually death through our selfish and self-destructive ways of living. Why is this so, we may ask? St Paul in his letter to the Romans gives us an indication of what our similar struggles are. St Paul describes the “inner struggle and battle that he experiences. He admits, “I cannot understand my own behaviour, I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate . . . for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, carry out the sinful things I do not want.” (Rom. 7: 15-16; 18-19).
In short, my sisters and brothers, we all need to open our hearts to God’s Divine Mercy and allow and accept His Forgiving Love to cleanse us of our sins, and in doing so, we will be freed from our self-centredness and pride. Recently, someone (Jack, not his real name) shared with me how he had all the years of his married life been so selfish, self-centred, and filled with pride. And that his ways had caused untold hurts and pain to all his loved ones; reflecting on his life, he could not believe how horribly presumptuous, self-righteous and destructive a person he had been. Actually, Jack was precisely describing the inner battle that St Paul went through of “seeing the good, but choosing the evil.” However, with God’s Divine Mercy of sending him different good people to lead him back to the path, he now sees the Light and the Truth, is repentant of his sins, and have the strength to live in God’s Love and Ways for the good if his family and loved ones, but through the crises of his married life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so heartening to hear of such conversion story. In today’s Gospel, when Jesus appeared to His disciples, He said to them, “Peace be with you, and showed them His hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.” However, Thomas one of the Twelve was not with them and refused to believe unless he could “see the holes himself and put his finger into the holes . . .”
Pope Francis, in his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday last year says, “Jesus invites us to behold these wounds, and to touch them ourselves as Thomas did. This is so that we too would be healed of our lack of belief.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this insight of Pope Francis leads us to admit the reality that there are different times in our lives, when we may behave and doubt like Thomas. However, let us ask our Risen Lord, to give us that grace to believe that Jesus is truly Risen and so live in the wisdom and holiness that focuses on eternal life and happiness as our ultimate goal in life, and not be too caught up by the materialistic and earthly concerns if life, that makes us live superficial lives that never fulfils superstitious lives that fills us with fear and insecurities, and presumptuous lives that fill us with anxieties.
As we are can be drawn into doubts in our faith, we are also called to be aware that we live with doubters and unbelievers like Thomas, who also wants to “see and touch” the wounds of Jesus, the Risen Lord. If we call ourselves believers in Christ, our Risen Lord, then we may also have to ask ourselves, “Do we have wounds to witness to the “doubters and unbelievers in the world”? “Do we live an insulated faith i.e. in a selfish comfort that expects God to serve our needs?” “What about the crosses we are called to carry, the sacrifices we are called to make, the humility we are called to embrace so that these “wounds of Christ” can be our true witness that Jesus is Risen in our lives?
And so my sisters and brothers, as I conclude, let us first, remind ourselves that as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday today, we are first called to a conversion of our hearts, like Jack in our true story. Let us like St Paul admit the “inner struggles” of our lives, and not wait for a crises in our lives and family before we return to God and open our hearts to accept His unconditional and Merciful Love. Second, let us touch the wounds of Jesus, and no longer doubt as Thomas did. And, when we are graced to see and sense the Risen Lord in our lives, that we may also, like Thomas, respond with deep love and faith as say to our Lord, “My Lord and My God.” Third, let us have the wisdom to dare to live our faith selflessly and passionately, so that we too will bear the wounds of Jesus as a witness to doubters and unbelievers who still live in the darkness of not accepting Jesus, our Saviour and Risen Lord.
Finally, let us remember that when Jesus, our Risen Lord appeared to His disciples, He breathe on them the “Peace of the Holy Spirit” three times within a short moment with them, in the upper room. Our Risen Lord too wants to give us this “Peace of the Holy Spirit”, today; here and now, are our hearts open to His Divine Mercy?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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