2nd Sunday of Easter

Lent obviously culminates in Easter.  But this Lent, we heard so much of mercy with the stories of the Prodigal Sin and the Woman Caught in Adultery, it seems there is a double culmination with our celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday.  Indeed, the paschal mystery Jesus giving his life on the cross in love and his rising from the dead which proves that mercy can conquer even death.  Mercy is more than kindness or forgiveness or compassion.   Mercy is ultimately a person, Jesus Christ.

The German theologian Walter Kasper wrote a book entitled, The Name of God s Mercy for no other word can better describe the actions of God in this world.  God did not need to create; it was an act of mercy.  God mercifully gave us every beautiful things and adopted Israel to be the example and bearer of divine mercy to the world.  Finally, in Jesus, all the mercy shown in the world was compacted into a nucleus.  When that energy was released in the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection, it would cover all the world and echo through the generations.  Jesus Christ is mercy.

Look at the Gospel for today.  In its short span Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” three times.  It is not a mere greeting; it is a statement of fact.  Jesus is the peace that is with us.  It is the true new world order for love has defeated death.  And God knows we have messed it up, but peace reigns through the mercy of God. We need only live out this promise more vigilantly and wholeheartedly.  He then breathes on the disciples and announces, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  But it is not a random spirit Jesus gives them.  It is His own Spirit that seemed to forgive everything and retain very little.

Yet, less we begin to see mercy as a theological stance or a lifestyle choice, the Gospel gives us the story of doubting Thomas who was absent when the risen Jesus first came through the locked doors.  (I guess Thomas chose a bad time to get the groceries.)  Thomas refuses to believe the good news of the resurrection.  He does not believe for the same reasons we do not believe.  He has been hurt; had his hopes raised and then dashed.  He would not allow himself to believe “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side.”  Jesus handles it well.  I would have been like “So Thomas, you did not believe. Well look at me now.”  Instead, Jesus extends his hands and offers his side.  He shows his vulnerability, the signs of his suffering, even in his glorified state and invites him to not be “unbelieving but believe.”   Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God.”  Then Jesus graces us as well.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  We will have life in his name.

We should not leave out the other night of the Holy Triduum.  For on the night before he died Jesus performed another act of mercy.  He gave us his body and blood so that we might be transformed into Jesus Christ, the one who is mercy.  And once he breathed on his apostles that gift of his spirit now belongs to the people of God.  We have all we need to fulfill our vocation of mercy.  Mercy is our mission, our greatest aspiration.

We assign many positive attributes to people:  kind, sweet and good. We rarely say, “Hey that Joe is so merciful.”  But think of the most merciful person you know.   Hold them in mind.  Are you inspired when you think of them?  Is thinking of that person making you a better person?  Wouldn’t you want to be the person someone else is thinking of?

Let’s make being merciful a life goal.  It is what we are made for.  Seek mercy out where it may be found; celebrate it when you see it.  When mercy is missing, fill the void and when it is violated, call it out in the name of justice.  Then we can answer the call of Christ. We will be the bastion into which the mercy of God flows.  We will be evidence of the infinite and divine mercy of God.