Sunday April 16 2023 Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday
The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone. The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.
Psalm 117 Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
In the year 2000 Pope St. John Paul II decreed that the second Sunday of Easter is to be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.
In 1931, our Lord appeared to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska in a vision. Sister Faustina was a young, uneducated Polish nun of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. He said, “The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.” She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy. Jesus reportedly said to her: “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You.“
When St. Faustina first saw the original image that was being painted under her direction, she wept in disappointment and complained to Jesus: “Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?”. In answer, she heard, “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace“.
To Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, none of this is new. The riches of love and mercy made known to us in the heart of Christ was the focal point of the Charism of our founder Fr. Jules Chevalier MSC. He had come to recognise in his own life what we hear from St. Peter, “You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.”
About eighty-five years before Faustina had her visions; the same abundance of compassion and mercy awoke the heart of Chevalier. I have heard on occasions some argue that we should insist on compassion rather than mercy, but there is no competition between the two, both point the same reality – the abundant grace of God made manifest in the heart of Jesus Christ for the whole world. And this is the focus – God’s grace, not our preferences or inclinations.
This same faith that looks forward with trust and joy is what made the early Christian community so willing to share everything they had, and to live a synodal experience in service of the mission of God. In the spirituality of the heart of Chevalier and the image of Faustina both recognize the profound call to draw all people towards that Divine grace that enables a shift from “Me” to “We”.
Thomas’ confession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God!’ is his time of awakening to this same life in faith and dependence of the grace of God. It is not so much about what we see or not see, but rather about acknowledging what our own experience tells us is true – that in the heart of Jesus, we see mirrored to us the tender kindness of God towards ourselves.
Like us, Faustina and Chevalier did not see Jesus as did Thomas, and yet happy were they who did not see and yet believed.