2nd Sunday of Easter–Divine Mercy

Mother_AngelicaMother Angelica died on Easter Sunday. I’m sure most of you know who she was, but just in case….She was the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Starting in a garage, she grew EWTN into a worldwide media network reaching more than 250 million people. Even though she’s been unable to do TV work since 2002, her programs are still the most popular on the network.


Mother was quite a character. Her down-home style and her sense of humor attracted millions of people to her, and to Jesus. She was a nun of the Franciscan order of Poor Clares and was devoted to Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.


She wasn’t afraid to be outspoken when it came to her love of Jesus. She once said, “Do we love Jesus enough to defend Him?” What a great comment!


Mother Angelica was 92 years old and had been sick for a long time so her death wasn’t a surprise. In fact, her community in Hanceville, AL, had been planning for her passing for a long time. They had prepared a week of liturgies to mark her death. But, being the person she was, she died on Easter. We’re not allowed to pray the Office of the Dead during the Octave of Easter, so all the services that had been prepared for so long had to be scrapped and a new series of services had to be prepared on very short notice. I’m sure the cantankerous nun is smiling in heaven, seeing so many priests and religious scrambling to prepare for this week.


Two things Mother said, among the thousands of quotes attributed to her, will always stay with me. She once said, “When I think of all He’s done for me and how little I’ve done for Him, I could cry.” Here’s a woman who’s taken the Gospel to millions of people around the world in spite of her many physical challenges, and she doesn’t think she’s done enough! How insignificant our contributions are by comparison. “When I think of all He’s done for me and how little I’ve done for Him, I could cry.”


She often said, “We’re all called to be saints”. As you and I sit in this beautiful chapel surrounded by statues and images of great saints, her words should be a constant reminder to all of us of what God’s calling us to be. She said her greatest fear was not to do God’s will.


Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Our readings remind us of just how merciful God can be. In the Gospel, the Apostles are gathered in a locked room “for fear of the Jews”. He stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Think about that. Think about what’s just happened. Jesus was tortured and killed and these guys ran away. They hid. They deserted Him when He need them the most. Peter, the one chosen to lead His new Church even denied that he knew Jesus, not once, but three times! And Jesus’ first words to them were “Peace be with you.” He forgave them. That’s Divine Mercy.


All the Apostles weren’t there. Thomas was missing. When he came back, he refused to believe. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and pub my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


A week later, Jesus returns and this time Thomas is with the others. Again Jesus wishes them peace and offers Thomas the proof that he said he needed. Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas. His mercy extended even to “doubting Thomas.”


If Jesus could forgive them, why wouldn’t we think that He’d forgive us for our transgressions.


In the first reading, Peter and the others have been doing signs and wonders. Not only did Jesus forgive them, He gave them power to do wondrous things so that people might believe. They believed so strongly that they thought even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. More proof that no matter how sinful we might be, we can do great things with the help of the Holy Spirit.


On this Divine Mercy Sunday, when we realize that a crippled nun could start in a garage and build up a massive communications network reaching millions of believers and nonbelievers, we should realize that we can do great things too. Maybe we’ll never reach millions of people, but we can spread the Gospel to everyone we meet. That’s our mission. That’s our calling. As Mother Angelica said, “We’re all called to be saints.” Our only fear should be not to do God’s will.



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.