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Divine Mercy Sunday - April 28, 2019

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By Deacon Tim Papa

Last week, our church bulletin contained a quote from Saint Faustina. She said that Jesus’ told her: “Although My greatness is beyond understanding, I commune only with those who are little. I demand of you a childlike spirit.” This was part of the announcement of the celebration of Divine Mercy which will be held today, here, at 3:00. In the year 2000, Saint Pope John Paul the Second officially designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, being the last day of the novena that begins on Good Friday. After reading this, I am struck by why our Divine Mercy committee would have chosen this quote. I believe that its insistence on “a childlike spirit” unites the two great themes for today: faith and mercy. For children to thrive, they must have incredible faith in those adults around them to show mercy towards them to provide for their every need. Faith and mercy are inextricably linked together.

The psalm for today reflects God's great mercy, praising God for His unending mercy and rejoicing in His creation. However, the other readings are not so much about mercy but about faith. The story about the doubts of Thomas is one of the most familiar passages on faith, so much so that a lack of faith by someone results in their being labeled a “doubting Thomas.” Some readings we hear at Mass have messages that are difficult to understand, but this one states it boldly and clearly: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Indeed, the gospels were written, as John states, that all may “come to believe.” The first reading concerns the very early Church in Jerusalem, not long after Christ's ascension. The people were coming to believe, and the apostles were able through signs and example to win over those who were especially in need of healing. The second reading is from Revelations, and it describes additional signs to John that Christ is indeed risen and has taken His rightful place in heaven. Thus all of the readings today are chosen to proclaim that our faith in Christ is justified, that the resurrection is the crowning event of the incarnation of God, and that if we follow His teachings and have faith in His promises we can share in the blessing of God both in this world and the next.

But faith is more than belief. I believe that there is a long river called the Nile and a broad river called the Amazon even though I’ve never seen them in person. I’ve seen pictures of them, but I’ve also seen pictures of fire-breathing dragons and a wizard named Harry Potter, both of which I don’t believe in. Belief is only the first part of faith, but faith requires that the belief be backed up with trust. And trust requires that we act on the basis of that trust when we make decisions which affect our lives in meaningful ways.

So how does mercy relate to faith? The paintings we see for Divine Mercy Sunday say at the bottom, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Saint Faustina thus clearly made the connection between faith and mercy. The concluding prayer of the chaplet spells the connection out when we ask God to help us, “with great confidence [we] submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
This, then, is the relationship: faith and love on our part and love and mercy on God’s part is the great relationship that God promises us, both in the Old Testament covenant with Israel, but most explicitly in the New Testament through Christ. The faith of Jesus in the Father, His trust when He hung on the cross, is rewarded in the mercy of the resurrection. We too are promised this through our baptism if we live up to all that faith entails.

But faith without works is, as the Church has always maintained, empty. If we do not live our lives in accordance with His teachings, do we really have trust in God? We do not, but we instead trust our own judgment and feel free to change the terms of the covenant. Christ did not do this, even though He wanted to: remember just two weeks ago in the reading of the passion: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” That is the standard of trust that we should try to live up to in our daily lives. As we continue the Mass with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, let us receive the Blessed Sacrament in a trustful manner, knowing that one of God’s many graces He provides is His abundant mercy to us, which we should then go forth and show to those we encounter in our lives.

For those of you receiving your first communion, congratulations, and many thanks to all of you, your parents, and your teachers for completing the preparation for this great sacrament. Today’s Gospel and its message of faith and mercy is appropriate for this day. It is important that you always remember that the Eucharist is not magic; it is a sacrament. God will give you His graces, but how you respond and act upon those graces is important. If you take a doubting Thomas approach where you want God to do all the work and prove to you His divine mercy, you will be disappointed. If, instead, you enter into the sacrament with trustful acceptance of his grace and you act on that basis with everyone you encounter, you will not only receive His mercy but also spread mercy to your family, friends, and neighbors, and will be like Peter and the other Apostles in our first reading spreading the Church through the world, bringing all people into communion with the Lord. For our Church has always taught that faith in God is not a passive act, and you must actively proclaim that faith with everything you do in your life. Otherwise, the grace you receive today through the Eucharist is like putting gas in a car that has no tires: the gas is there, but it does no one any good.

After the events chronicled in the Gospel, doubting Thomas went on to become the great Saint Thomas, founder the church in India, where he is still a revered figure. His doubts, converted through the mercy of the Lord into a strong faith, propelled the expansion of the early Church in the same way it grew in our first reading. How do we demonstrate our faith, not just belief, but a child-like faith, in God and His Church?



By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

       Unlike all other religions, Christians believe that God became man.  We believe that God was actually born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross and was buried in a tomb.  We also believe that Jesus rose from the dead – not just spiritually but bodily.  Jesus was not a ghost, he was seen and touched after his resurrection.  He is fully human.  Jesus even let Thomas put his hand into His wounded side and his finger in the holes of His nail-scarred hands.  Jesus’ bodily resurrection shows that our faith is not based on subjective experiences but on objective, historical fact.  We are Christians who are in a deep, total, practical relationship with the Person, Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead.

The past two weeks have been action-packed, to say the least.  We had Passion Sunday followed by the Chrism Mass, then Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.  In between these days there was time for adoration, reconciliation, stations of the cross and quiet time for reflection and contemplation.  We went from darkness as we relived Jesus’ passion and death to brightness and celebration at his triumphant resurrection. 

This Sunday we hear the Gospel passage from John about Jesus’ appearance to all the apostles, except Thomas.  Let’s put ourselves in the apostle’s shoes.  Their teacher, their Messiah, their friend was brutally tortured and crucified.  They feared for their own lives and knew that the Jews wanted to put an end to all things Jesus.  So here they are in a locked room hiding out and in enters Jesus.  Then he speaks to them – “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and side.  At this they rejoiced and again Jesus says “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Then he breaths the Holy Spirit on them and tells them to forgive others sins.
       This is the apostle’s ministry to help others to forgive and to be reconciled; the labor of pardon.  Forgiveness recreates the world according to God’s design.  And we are the dispensers of that pardon and reconciliation in our time.  When we refuse to be instruments of peace and pardon, we deny the grace we received at Baptism.

       Now, let’s take a closer look at Thomas’ response in today’s Gospel.  Thomas was with Jesus and the apostles through the good and not so good times.  He had the same fears as the other apostles and he needed proof that Jesus really was resurrected.  We need to ask ourselves would any of the other apostles have reacted any differently than Thomas?  Would we have reacted any differently if we were not present during that first encounter between the resurrected Jesus and the other apostles?  I believe we would have had a reaction similar to Thomas.  The good news is that even though Thomas needed visual proof of the Risen Jesus, he came to believe in His resurrection.  Thomas catches our attention in this passage with his confession of faith and Jesus’ blessing for the people who believe without seeing.

       Jesus blesses those who believe and have not seen.  That is every Christian over the past two thousand years.  In a sense they are doubly blessed, because they believe in the Risen Jesus without having seen Him.  Yes, we are indeed blessed that Jesus suffered and died for our sins.  We owe it to Jesus, to come together as a community and celebrate the liturgy of the Word and Eucharist as often as possible.  We need to be instruments of peace and pardon.  We need to be examples to others of the wonderful things that can happen in our lives when we have a relationship with Jesus.  With our belief that Jesus Christ is our lord and Savior, we can then continue to carry out His work and bring others to have a relationship with Him.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  In the 1930s, Jesus chose a humble Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to receive private revelations concerning Divine Mercy that were recorded in her Diary.  On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  In 2005 St. John Paul II explained: “This was precisely the time when those ideologies of evil, Nazism and communism, were taking shape.  Sister Faustina became the herald of the one message capable of off-setting the evil of those ideologies, the fact that God is mercy – the truth of the merciful Christ. And for this reason he felt impelled to pass on those experiences that deserve a place in the treasury of the universal Church.”

       Jesus’ Divine Mercy, that we saw on the cross, has overcome the evil and atrocities of wars and mankind throughout the ages.  This Sunday at 3 PM there will be a Divine Mercy Sunday celebration here at St James Church.  Now more then ever we need the power of this Divine Mercy to help fight the evil that lurks in our world.  Let’s come together as a community of faith and pray to end the senseless violence against Christians throughout the world.  Let’s pray especially for the victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka that lost their lives on Easter Sunday.  We need Christian communities and families to come together and pray for Jesus’ Divine Mercy in our troubled world.
Let’s pray together for the protection of all Christians throughout the world and for God’s kingdom here on earth.

It was wonderful to see so many people welcomed into our Church at the Easter vigil last Saturday evening.  Even in the wake of violence against Christianity throughout the world people are still willing to follow the Risen Jesus.  They are looking for Jesus and His Divine Mercy to be a part of their lives and to help them become the best-versions-of-themselves.  They are hoping to be instruments of peace and reconciliation in this troubled world that we live in.

This weekend we also have the wonderful celebration of First Holy Communion for many of our young people.  Like us, these first communicants believe in the Risen Jesus and want to receive his Body and Blood to be one with Him.  They also hope that Jesus will strengthen them and give them courage to battle the forces of evil.  It is a blessing to have these young people receiving First Holy Communion this weekend.  Let us pray for them as they receive this blessed sacrament that was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper which we celebrated just ten days ago on Holy Thursday.  May these young people (and all of us as well) truly understand the significance of receiving this blessed sacrament.  Let’s help them feel the love of Jesus Christ in all of us – the community of St James.  Let’s help them desire to receive Jesus each week in the Eucharist.  Let’s help them build and encounter an everlasting relationship with the Risen Jesus.

       May Jesus’ Divine Mercy be with you always.  And consider yourself Blessed – because you have not seen and have believed.

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

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