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Divine Mercy Sunday - April 23, 2017


Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

 

Jesus came and stood in the midst of his disciples and said, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  “Peace be with you,” he said again. Jesus died for our sins but he rose to bring us joy and peace.  Jesus showed his hands and side indicating that he was no longer Jesus of Nazareth – that man died on the cross – he is now the crucified and risen Lord.  Thomas for all his doubt has the correct instinct: to probe the wounds of Christ.  Jesus tells Thomas he has a special privilege to probe his wounds with his hands but the people of St. James on Conway must probe his wounds with their hearts through faith. 

 

This is what we have been doing throughout Lent at Stations of the Cross, and through Holy Week on Palm Sunday and Good Friday: probing the wounds of Christ with our hearts through faith.  We contemplate the mystery: “By his wounds we were healed.”  Of course, it need not be Lent to contemplate the death and resurrection of Christ.  Eucharistic Adoration is an excellent opportunity to do so.  Jesus is present behind locked doors and says, “Peace be with you.”  I am moved by a line in the hymn, O Sacred Head Surrounded: “What language can I borrow to thank you my dear friend; for this your sorrowful passion, for mercy without end.”  There are, indeed, no words to express our debt of gratitude for God’s love and mercy, but Fr. Timothy has given us four expressions that we move through in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: I believe, I adore, I trust, I love.

 

When Jesus breathes on his disciples, he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you retain they are retained.”  This recalls Genesis when God first breathed life into human beings.  “In the beginning, God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)  In Genesis, God gave us life but sin ruined the integrity of mind, body, and spirit which was God’s gift.   Jesus restores the gift life in His Holy Spirit and makes us whole again.  His gift of forgiveness restores harmony between ourselves and our neighbor, between ourselves and God.

What sin, however, does the church retain – do we not wish that all sin be forgiven?  We heard the story of the Man Born Blind on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  When the man affirms that Jesus granted him sight by the power of God, he was scorned and rejected by the Jewish Authorities.  By trusting in Jesus, the man is rejected by his community but finds union with the Lord.  In contrast, the parents of the man deny the power of Jesus when their son gains sight.  Their fear of persecution prevents them from coming into the light of Christ and so they remain in the dark – their sin is retained.

 

Thus we come to the motto of Divine Mercy: “Jesus I trust in you.”  Like the man born blind we abandon ourselves to Jesus and have no fear of the outcome.  The image of Divine Mercy reminds us that if God has poured out his love and mercy upon us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – then what need we fear?  The white and red rays remind us of the water and blood that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross.  Water from the side of Christ is captured in the baptismal font to cleanse us form sin and fill us with grace – blood is contained in the communion cup to give us eternal life.

 

I was listening to a story of a professional soccer player in Italy who became a religious sister.  She was not a particularly pious person but when a sister gave a presentation at her parish, she found that she wanted that sense of purpose – that sense of serenity.  When she told her Mother that she wanted to join a religious congregation her mother burst out in tears.  Mystified, the woman asked her mother why this was so significant.  Her mother explained that after she gave birth to her older brothers, she then suffered three miscarriages.  She promised the Lord that if she had another child she would dedicate her to the Lord.  When her daughter announced that she would become a consecrated virgin, the Mother knew her promise was fulfilled.  The soccer player later realized why her Mother had named her Rafaella; in the Hebrew it means “God heals.”

My dear brothers and sisters, let us probe the wounds of Christ with our hearts and respond with belief, adoration, trust, and love, knowing that by His wounds, we are healed.