Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)—April 11

doubting thomasCentral Message: Jesus Christ has risen from the dead

Doctrine: The mercy of God and the Feast of Divine Mercy

Practical Application: Acts of mercy

To view the readings, click here. (Lectionary: 45)

Central Message: Jesus Christ has risen from the dead

Acts 5:12-16

  • After they received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles boldly preached the Gospel of the Risen Christ in Jerusalem.
  • They did this despite the contrary orders of the Jewish leaders.
  • With the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles performed “signs and wonders,” such as healing the sick and casting out demons.
  • These were works of divine mercy done for person suffering misery.
  • Great numbers of the Jewish people were converted as a result.

Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

  • “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.”
  • The house of Israel means all the Jews
  • The house of Aaron means all the priests
  • Those who fear the Lord means god-fearing Gentiles, so, potentially everyone.
  • Why should we “Give thanks to the Lord”? What is his “everlasting love”? God’s tender mercy to us is that: he forgives our sins, heals our sinful nature, raises us up to his level by giving us grace, and promises us eternal life in heaven.

Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19

  • John relates a vision of the Resurrected Jesus Christ. Just as God had revealed his name to Moses as “I AM,” Our Lord identifies himself with life:

I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.

  • John had seen the Risen Christ much earlier, on another first day of the week, which Christians renamed the Lord’s Day, the day of his Resurrection, and at other times in the forty days between his Rising until his Ascension.

Jn 20:19-31

  • St. John tells us why he has included in his Gospel these two post-Resurrection appearances of the Lord to his Apostles with these details. “[T]hese are written,” he says, “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” What, then, are some things John was teaching in this Gospel?
  • Jesus has a glorified body. It has properties that go beyond human nature but are certainly welcome. He can appear and disappear at will. At the same time, he retains his five wounds as a kind of trophy of his victory over death. The Apostle Thomas could have his doubts satisfied by his sense of sight and touch, by examining Christ’s resurrected body.
  • The Lord greets the Apostles with, “Peace be with you.” Christ has won peace for them and restored them to a state of holiness and justice—he has made peace between God and them, between them and themselves, between them and each other, and between them and the world. He has done this for us, too.
  • Part of peace and life in Christ is achieved through the Sacrament of Penance, which Christ institutes here, giving the Apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins confessed to them.
  • All these benefits are God’s mercy.

Doctrine: The mercy of God and the Feast of Divine Mercy

  • Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy, a devotion first given to the Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, in a private revelation, and later extended to the whole Church by Pope Bl. John Paul II on the day he canonized her on April 30, 2000.
  • Mercy exists because of inequality. One person has some kind of power another does not. The power can be used or withheld to harm or benefit the other. Mercy is exercised when the powerful person does not harm the person under his power. The merciful person may even benefit the person under his power. Mercy does good to the person over whom one wields power.
  • Divine Mercy is how the omnipotent God acts toward us. Divine Mercy is beautifully summarized by St. John in his Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). What is our distress? It is our wounded nature: Our natural condition in which we are alienated from God, from other persons, from the natural world, even from ourselves. It is our actual sins: Who can claim he has no sins to be forgiven? It is our mortality: As Tolkien puts it in his Ring rhyme, we are “mortal men doomed to die.” St. John even gives us God’s motive for his Divine Mercy: He loves the world.
  • Divine Mercy is also beautifully captured in Christ’s words about his yoke: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

Practical Application: Acts of mercy

  • Because we are the beneficiaries of Divine Mercy we are obliged to show mercy to others whenever we can. We must have pity on and alleviate the miserable condition of our neighbor and even our “enemy.”
  • Traditional Catholic discipline has enumerated seven acts of mercy that address the body and seven that serve the soul.
    • The corporal works of mercy are:
      • To feed the hungry;
      • To give drink to the thirsty;
      • To clothe the naked;
      • To harbor the harborless;
      • To visit the sick;
      • To ransom the captive;
      • To bury the dead.
    • The spiritual works of mercy are:
      • To instruct the ignorant;
      • To counsel the doubtful;
      • To admonish sinners;
      • To bear wrongs patiently;
      • To forgive offenses willingly;
      • To comfort the afflicted;
      • To pray for the living and the dead.
  • Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was given an insight from the Gospel that she lived heroically and has taught to countless persons. It is to see Christ himself in the person in need. In the words Christ put into the mouth of the just judge in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Mother Teresa even came up with a simple way to help us remember this call to show God’s tender mercy to our fellows. Open your hand and touch each of your five fingers while saying “you did it to me.”
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