2nd Sunday of Easter–Divine Mercy Sunday

Poor Thomas.  Here it is more than 2,000 years later and we still use his name to identify someone who refuses to believe something.  He’s a doubting Thomas.  But was Thomas really so different from the other Apostles?  The other guys all saw Jesus.  Thomas didn’t.  The idea of Jesus rising from the dead was pretty outrageous.  No one had ever seen such a thing.  It had never happened before.  It’s never happened again.  I’m afraid that if I’d been in Thomas’ shoes, I wouldn’t have believed it either.  Even though the others had seen Jesus, it’s not so outrageous that Thomas would have his doubts.

 

Let’s put this story into historical perspective.  Jesus had died just four days before.  His Apostles were locked up in a room, fearing that the Jews were going to crucify them too. Suddenly, Jesus appears in the locked room and says, “Peace be with you.”  Remember all these men had run away.  Not only were they afraid of the Jews, they were full of guilt because of the way they had acted at the crucifixion.  They had run away.  Peter had denied Jesus three times.  But here He was wishing them peace, not once, but twice.  He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  By doing this, He was forgiving them.  And that’s what Easter is all about.

 

Blessed John Paul II declared this second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday.  In one moment, Jesus forgave the Apostles for running out on Him and gave them the ability to share that Divine Mercy with others.  “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”  In order for the Apostles to give mercy they first had to receive it.

 

Let’s go back to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles.  The book is about exactly what the name implies, the Acts of the Apostles.  In this passage, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the Apostles.”  They’re following up on the commission that Jesus has given them and they were adding great numbers of new followers.  But, remember, these new followers weren’t believing just because the Apostles had a great story.  They were believing because the Apostles were doing signs and wonders.  Without those signs and wonders, they would probably have been doubting Thomases too.

 

So, we have all these new followers and people are coming from all around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those disturbed by evil spirits hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall on them.  They believed that just his shadow had healing powers.  All because Jesus had given the Apostles the Holy Spirit.

 

Fast forward to 2013.  You and I are in this beautiful, historic church to worship God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is the same Holy Spirit that we all received in baptism.  We received Him again at our Confirmation.  Father and I received the Holy Spirit again in ordination.  It’s the same Spirit that the Apostles received directly from Jesus so many centuries ago.

 

Does that mean you and I can heal the sick?  I don’t know.  Does it?  Jesus said that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains.  A mustard seed is pretty small.  We’ve heard that with God, nothing is impossible.  But who has that kind of faith?

 

Do I believe that God can heal the sick?  Of course I do.  Do I believe He can do it through me?  That question makes me a doubting Thomas.  He’s never done it before.  Why should He start now?  The problem’s not with God.  The problem’s with me.  Like many of you, and like Thomas, I want to see some proof.  But proof is the enemy of faith.  If I have proof, I don’t need faith.

 

And there’s the problem.  It’s the twenty-first century.  We’ve traveled into space.  We have cures for many diseases that we thought were incurable.  New ones are being discovered everyday.  We have instant access to news, even from the opposite side of the world through satellites and the Internet.  We’re barraged with news and information.  But what’s that do to our faith?

 

Have we become so jaded by our secular society that we don’t have simple faith?   Do we believe what’s written in the Scriptures when the so-called news media try so hard to discredit it?

 

Last weekend this church, and every other Christian church in the world was full.  Easter is a big deal to most Christians.  But you know what?  Other than the extra candles, and the flowers, and the Easter decorations, nothing happened in any of those churches last weekend that isn’t happening this weekend.  The same miracle of Jesus turning the ordinary bread and wine into His Body and Blood happens every weekend, in fact it happens every day in the Catholic Church.

 

No, we don’t have weekday masses anymore at Saint John’s.  But if you want to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood every single day, it’s readily available.  That’s what our Church is all about.  Of course, we do lots of other things, but it’s in receiving God’s Divine Mercy, in receiving His Body and Blood, that we center our faith.

 

Being a Catholic without receiving regular communion is like trying to drive a car without putting gas in it.  Jesus is the source of our spiritual energy.

 

If you and I believe what Jesus told us; if we believe it with all our hearts; we should want to receive the Eucharist so badly we can hardly stand it.  You should be thinking, “shut up, deacon, let’s get to communion.  I want to see the miracle.  I want to receive Jesus into my own body.”

 

That’s not all.  If you and I really believe Jesus, we should be lined up at the confessional every single week.  We should want to receive Jesus’ divine mercy, not just in His body and blood, but we should have an uncontrollable desire to receive the sacrament of penance as often as possible.  That’s the way it used to be.  What happened?  I don’t know.  That’s a subject for people a lot smarter than I am.

 

The lesson of Easter and of Divine Mercy is this.  Jesus died for our sins.  We know that.  He came back to the Apostles the very day after Easter and forgave them for their sins and gave them the ability to forgive others for theirs.  All He asks from us is that we believe.  We must have faith.  Nothing is impossible with God but we have to believe that with all our hearts.

 

 

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