SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER: DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

Divina_Misericordia_(Eugeniusz_Kazimirowski,_1934)

Original Divine Mercy Image, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, Holy Trinity Church, Vilnius, Lithuania.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040818.cfm

Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”          John 20:20.

The devotion to Jesus, King of Divine Mercy originated in the revelations granted to Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament. She was a nun of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland and lived 1908-1938. Summed up very briefly, the Divine Mercy devotion is threefold: To appeal to and obtain God’s mercy; to believe that God’s mercy is unending and abundant; and for each of us to be merciful to each other, and allow God’s mercy to flow through us to others. My preferred definition of mercy is compassion on those who do not deserve it. That’s all of us, folks. None of us deserves the compassion of God; we all stand convicted of disobeying in one way or another God’s simple yet profound golden law, to love God, neighbor and self. 

For example, consider today’s gospel taken from John shortly after the Lord’s horrifying death. A group of Jesus’ followers were huddled together behind locked doors, terrified no doubt that they too would be marked out for crucifixion for being his followers. Two of them had already fled the city and were on their way to Emmaus. Then the Lord appeared to them with the word “Peace”, probably the very last emotion they were feeling. There is not one word of condemnation, rebuke or scorn from the Savior’s lips to those who had abandoned him at the moment he needed them most. Not one syllable. Surely that is compassion on those who do not deserve it? Not only that, but he entrusts them with awesome spiritual power to forgive sins, as surely he had forgiven theirs. It is probably impossible to understand the depth of feeling these people had on encountering him who had died as a consequence of the grotesque, agonizing and humiliating public spectacle of crucifixion. It was unique in human history. It is no wonder that Thomas, not present at the first appearance, questioned their sanity or truthfulness when told about it. So Jesus addressed him personally when he appeared again. Poor Thomas must now have gone through the same conflicting emotions as his companions had previously, but he goes further, sinking to his knees to declare My Lord and My God”. That is the one and only time Jesus is so addressed in the entire New Testament. Jesus acknowledged that, but refers to us, today, by saying that we, who believe as Thomas believed but were not there, are blessed as a consequence of declaring the same truth about him. 

Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_ThomasThe Incredulity of Thomas, Caravaggio, Sanssouci Picture Gallery, Potsdam, Germany.

All the gospels finish with Jesus’ resurrection, with Mark originally ending with a simple empty tomb, leaving us to figure out what had happened. John has the episode which is today’s gospel, rightly called Divine Mercy, as Jesus accepts his woebegone and terrified followers as they are, then John has a later addition with Jesus questioning Peter, the one who had really let Jesus down utterly at his trial. Again, no rebuke from the Lord. God has unending compassion for all of us, beginning with those who had betrayed him! But interestingly, all the gospels end with a bunch of terrified human beings, hiding behind locked doors, waiting for that dreaded authoritarian hammering thereon. So, had it been left to them like that, there would have been no further Christian story. It would have all died with them. For fifty days they remained thus, so for the post Easter season, we can surely relate to them, bewildered that Jesus was with them still, yet they were still incapable of doing anything about it. They remained hidden and scared. So this period in the church’s calendar is a good time for us to examine our own belief in the Risen Lord, and what we are prepared to do about it. Are we too scared to mention that we believe in the man who conquered death itself? Are we too judgmental to show compassion to others? Do we have limits to the mercy we are prepared to extend to others? Are we prepared to declare “My Lord and My God” and mean it, and thereby to adopt and follow his example? Easter does not end with the resurrection. It is the eternal seed planted in each of us to grow and become truly Christ to the world.

RisenLord

The Holy Resurrection, nanaquparadze

 

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RJC

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