Sunday, April 23, is the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Year A). Mass Readings: Acts 2:42-47; Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, but it is no longer the Year of Mercy. The Vatican is looking forward to a new celebration: the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima. It is the perfect celebration to follow the Year of Mercy, and it is the perfect celebration to look to today, because it tells the rest of the story of the mercy of God.
The readings today look to what Christianity, the way of the followers of the Risen Jesus, can be.
We hear Jesus tell Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We hear in the Gospel how Jesus breathes on the apostles and says, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
Christianity is about following Jesus, who forgives sins through the Church. But we forget the corollary of both those opportunities. Blessed are those who believe. But how about those who do not believe? And, yes, many see their sins forgiven, but Jesus also says: “Whose sins you retain are retained.” There are many ways sins are retained instead of forgiven: To receive absolution in confession, we have to make a firm purpose of amendment. There is no mercy without conversion. This is the message of Fatima. We know from St. Faustina that Divine Mercy is inexhaustible. But we know from the warnings of soon-to-be Sts. Jacinta and Francisco that, without the conversion of sinners, mercy is impossible.
The first two readings remind us of this, too. The first reading tells us about the beautiful community that the early Christians established, with all of the fundamentals of the Catholic Church. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the Breaking of Bread and to the prayers,” says the reading. They had all the makings of the magisterium, the Church and the Mass — and more.
However, the second reading from Peter warns of trouble ahead. Christians will “have to suffer through various trials,” he says. Their faith will be “tested by fire.” Some will turn against the apostles; some will drink the cup of the Lord unworthily. Peter himself will witness God punishing Ananias and Sapphira with death for holding back wealth from the Church.
Pray today with St. Faustina for Divine Mercy.
But also pray with Our Lady of Fatima for the conversion of sinners to repent and follow Christ.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence
at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas, and author of What Pope Francis Really Said.