Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mercy Sunday - Second Sunday of Easter

In today’s Gospel, John reminds us that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene on the morning of His resurrection and later that evening He appeared to the disciples who were huddled in the upper room behind locked doors because they were so afraid. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Notice that there is no judgment! There is no condemnation! There is no shaming! Jesus does not shame his disciples for their fear or the fact that all but Saint John abandoned him on the cross.

Instead he announces “Peace.” We can imagine how stunned they were first at seeing the risen Lord and then to hear his message of peace and forgiveness and mercy.

The disciples rejoiced, but they must have been dumbfounded, completely speechless because Jesus repeats himself: “Peace be with you.”

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, empowering them to forgive others just as he had forgiven them. Each of us is called to be a forgiver, to be an agent of mercy, an ambassador of Christ, a peacemaker.

Lord, have mercy!

But Thomas the Apostle wasn’t with the others that first Easter. Why wasn’t he with them?

Maybe he thought he got Easter off. One can easily imagine Thomas trying to explain his absence on that first Sunday after the Lord Jesus appeared. Poor Thomas was likely feeling pretty left out.

Seriously, why didn’t he join them? We do not know. Perhaps he was too miserable and depressed. I mean, after all, he believed that the Man Jesus was the Lord, but he had died a gruesome death. And the answer to all his life’s questions now seemed like nonsense.

Now I know that Saint Thomas has been called “doubting Thomas” for centuries, but I am going to ask that we give him a break and forgive him, show him some mercy. Jesus did.

The next Sunday Thomas was with the other apostles when Jesus came, and he said to Thomas: “Peace be with you.”

Thomas knelt before Jesus and declared: “My Lord and my God!”

The mercy of Jesus helps him believe. The Holy Spirit helps him believe.

We should remember Thomas as the Apostle who made such a statement of faith!

Christ, have mercy.

After the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles carried on his work and ministry. People even carried the sick out into the streets so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Isn't this why so many people have flocked to see various popes through history? Whether it was John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II or Benedict XVI. 

And we see how many people have fallen in love with Pope Francis. He is out walking the streets of Rome, sharing the mercy of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit! 

But it isn't the pope, per se. The pope represents something greater, that connection to Christ, the successor to Simon Peter, successor to the Apostles. For Simon Peter's shadow had healing qualities (Acts 5.15) and Paul's cloak and handkerchief and apron could heal people, (see Acts 19.11-12; 2 Tim. 4.13). But the grace is extended to every believer.

But how are our shadows doing? Is our mere presence a source of God’s mercy and healing balm to those whom we encounter?

Imagine that large number of people from Evansville and other towns were to gather here, bringing their sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured just by being in our presence? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

Yet the promise that today’s liturgy brings– through the readings and the Eucharist – is exactly that.

You and I are called and chosen to be the mercy of Christ to a world desperately seeking mercy. And what’s really sad is that many people are looking for love in all the wrong places and going away even more empty.

But the good news is that you and I get to be the tender mercy of Christ Jesus to a frantic, fearful, fretful, and anxious world. And we begin right here in our parish, among our own family members, and community.

But before we ever say a word, let us pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to be totally present to them in their need and then when the time comes for words, let us allow the other person to speak first, and listen to their heart, for each one of our neighbors has his or her own story to tell, if we would but listen, tenderly and mercifully with the heart of Christ.

Lord, have mercy.

Pope Francis reminds us: “The first step required to experience mercy is to recognize that we are in need of mercy...” Jesus calls us to mercy.

“If we are not willing to admit our own need for mercy, then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy of experiencing this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy…but we must!...  Let us ask for the grace of forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving us.”

Let us ask for mercy” for as the psalmist sings: His mercy endures forever.

On this Mercy Sunday we pray: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, LEAD ALL SOULS TO HEAVEN, ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE MOST IN NEED OF YOUR MERCY.”