Homilies

Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Gospel Jn 20:19-31
Fear, Mercy and How to become an Easter Person

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 23 April 2017

In the light of today’s Gospel events of the Resurrection that we just heard proclaimed, and our celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, I am drawn to reflect on the theme of “fear and mercy”, in the light of what this means for us Christians who celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. 

“Fear” is a very human experience that can inhibit our growth in life and certainly our relationship with one another and with God.  In today’s Gospel that we just heard proclaimed, the disciples were huddled together and hiding in fear of the Jews, who would also persecute them, if not crucify them as they did to their Master. 

Yesterday evening, I attended a concert that was presented by the Youth choir of the Parish of St Ignatius, to raise funds for the archdiocesan GIFT campaign.  During the presentation one of the youth, Michelle shared, “I grew up never knowing who I truly am.”  And, even as her mother loved her, she went through much trials and pain in her life.   With tears in her eyes, Michelle added, “Then, my father abandoned the family . . . this left a hole; a deep wound in my heart that I was always trying to fill up; searching for the missing piece . . . but, in the meantime I was trying to please others, and being somebody that I am not, in order to gain the love that I have always longed to have . . .

But, as I look back on my life, I realise that Jesus has been gently (urging me on) and pushing me towards the path that He had planned for me.  Yet, in all of these, I would be lying if I said that my life was all sparkly, rainbows and ice cream . . . however, in discovering Jesus, I found my inner me; I found who I really am; my gifts – could I then, not dance a dance of victory?  I am nowhere near becoming the next canonised saint.  But, I am assured that Jesus loves me today, tomorrow, Mondays through to Sundays and forever more!  He is here to stay and has and will never abandon me (as my father did) . . . And, even if I were to forget God and be angry at Him for allowing me to go through heart breaking challenges in my life, He will never leave me (as my father did.) 

I am have come to learn that in knowing Jesus, He never promised us a life without pain and sorrow.  He only promised that He will never leave us; He also invites us to lay down our heavy hearts on Him.  Saying “YES” to Jesus, doesn’t mean that you’ll see instant effects of His works for you.  But, you’ll start seeing the little blessings that He has been giving you . . .”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, like Michelle, many of us may be going through much pain and challenges in our lives.  However, like Michelle, if we are able to discover Jesus accompanying us in our daily living, then like her, we too would be able to experience the ongoing healing grace of His Divine Mercy helping us overcome our fears in life, and concretely experiencing the Risen Christ’s Peace and Presence daily. 

The Divine Mercy that comes from Jesus is total and unconditional.  This is because as a fully human person, Jesus knew very well what human fear is all about.  He Himself experienced this at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  His deep fears and anxieties were so intense that the Gospel tells us, He sweated large drops of blood, as He knew very well the excruciating suffering and brutal torture He would be going through, and ending in the cruel death of the Crucifixion.  And He prayed, “Father, if possible remove this cup, but let not My Will, but Your Will be done.”  In this, Jesus clearly drew strength from doing His Father’s Will, when He was experiencing great fears and torments. 

As Jesus fully understood what human fears were about, the first thing He did when He appeared to His disciples upon rising from His Death, as in today’s Gospel account was to breathe on them the Spirit of “Peace”.  From the Scripture point of view, this “breathing of the Spirit” is the same Spirit that described God “breathing” and giving life to Adam and Eve.  This is the account of the Creation of man and woman, in Genesis. 

Likewise, at the Resurrection, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit of Peace, their hearts were renewed and transformed into a “new creation” where this Spirit of Peace dispelled the darkness of their fears, and empowered them with the courage to carry out the mission of proclaiming the Good News of Salvation in their lives fearlessly, for we all know that ten out of the twelve apostles died as martyrs for their faith.

This leads us to next reflect on Thomas; one of the Twelve Apostles, insisting on seeing Jesus Himself, and putting his fingers into the physical wounds before he believes that Jesus is Risen.  But, when Jesus appeared to him, and breathe on him the power and light of the Holy Spirit, he immediately believed and proclaimed his faith in Jesus, the Risen Christ by addressing Him as, “My Lord and my God.” 

And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday today, let us be reminded that our Risen Lord would want us to open our hearts and homes, and world to His Spirit of Peace, that will dispel the darkness of the fears in our lives, and strengthen our faith in Him, as the Risen Lord has conquered death, and won for us the gift of eternal life.|

 

One way of opening our hearts and homes to the Spirit of Peace of Jesus is to avail ourselves to be reconciled with Him, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that Jesus, instituted through the apostles, when he in today’s Gospel said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” 

And so, the grace that is specially offered to us in today’s celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, is two-fold: first, an invitation and special reminder to receive the Sacrament of God’s Mercy through the Reconciling and healing graces through “Confession” in the coming weeks.  Second, to be challenged to be and become God’s Compassionate Love and Mercy to those who have hurt us and harmed us in one way or another.

When Jesus empowered and enlightened His Apostles with the power of the Holy Spirit, in the upper room, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, we are each also called to open out hearts to be Our Risen Lord’s instrument of Proclaiming the Good News of Salvation, by forgiving someone that we have not forgiven . . . if verbally and directly with the person is not possible, then at least beg Jesus, Our Risen Lord, for the wisdom to do so, in our hearts. 

This is so that we no longer harbour hurts and anger in our hearts  and instead, allow the Peace of Jesus’ Spirit to reside more fully and securely in our hearts and more fully in our homes – where the unity and joy of our relationships in our homes are once again restored to what God has always willed for us.  Even as we humanly know that such “reconciliation” with our loved ones, relatives, friends and neighbours may not be easy, at least if we sincerely open our hearts to God’s Reconciling Spirit of Peace, we are paying heed to Jesus’ words when He said, “Thomas, you believe because you can see me.  Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.” 

In doing so, we are then truly, living the grace of the Easter season by allowing the Risen Christ, (as in the true story of Michelle), to lead us, heal us and empower us to live the fullness of the Gospel – as she said, “one little blessings at a time” and trusting fully that God will never abandon us and will always be there for us at all times; more so in the pains and challenges of our lives.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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