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It is part of our human condition that grief and fear blind us to heavenly realities. On Easter Sunday, St. Paul challenged us with Colossians 3:1-4: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above…. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” To which I want to say, “Easier said than done!” I have no trouble rejoicing in Christ until I have trouble in my life, and then it’s too easy to fixate on that and forget him.
I find it comforting to hear last week and in today’s gospel, for Divine Mercy Sunday, that even those closest to Jesus had trouble seeing and believing the risen Christ. Mary Magdalene was grief-stricken, the apostles were afraid for their lives, and Thomas needed physical proof. I can relate to all of those things. But grief and fear and doubt didn’t mean the end of the story for the apostles, and it needn’t mean so for us, either. The Scriptures are careful to tell us how Jesus spoke tenderly to Mary Magdalene, spoke peace to the fearful apostles, and let Thomas feel his wounds. “Peace be with you,” he says. “Do not be unbelieving, but believe”!
Jesus Speaks Peace to His Disciples
Listen and look, and Jesus will speak those things to you as well. Watch for the hidden ways Jesus appears to us: in the Eucharist (remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who only recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread?); in his Word (think Mary Magdalene); in the forgiving words of the priest (think the disciples in the Upper Room); in the poor, in one another. Like the disciples, we must learn to see him. But when we do, our gut response is likely to be that of Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”
Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday: John 20:19-31
If you can, spend some time with today’s gospel (John 20:19-31). Don’t miss why it’s so fitting for Divine Mercy Sunday. Not only does Jesus show mercy to his unbelieving friends, in the process of bringing them peace he draws them into his own mission of forgiveness that enables others to feel his touch and know him: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” he charged the apostles.
Experiencing Mercy at Mass
We, too, are to pass on what we have received. And every time we go to mass, we contemplate mercy and experience it from the Lord:
From the moment we enter the church, we are welcomed by the arms of the Lord stretched out for us above the altar. We are forgiven our sins. We are fed by his body and blood. Our thirst is quenched by his Word. We are taught, encouraged, comforted, admonished, and guided by the Word and the homily. We are also sheltered by the Church, clothed by his grace. We are cleansed and set free by his mercy and forgiveness.
Those are all works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing and sheltering and welcoming, teaching and admonishing and forgiving, and so on). We can’t give what we haven’t got. But from the Lord, we receive all that we need. And at the end of the mass, we hear Ite Missa est. “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Sometimes the priest will say, “Go forth to love and serve the Lord.” In other words: Open your eyes to Divine Mercy. Take what you have received, and pass it on!
© 2017 Sarah Christmyer
You may be interested in these related posts:
- Be Not Afraid!
- God Calls Himself “Mercy”
- Forgiveness: What It Is and How to Do It
- Live Mercy This Lent (series)
- Casting Out the Roots of Bitterness