Holy Mass is more than a historical re-enactment, Pope Benedict XVI said on April 15, Divine Mercy Sunday.
“Christian worship is not just a commemoration of past events, or even a particular mystical, interior experience, but essentially an encounter with the risen Lord,” he told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square prior to the midday recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer.
For, while Christ now “lives in the dimension of God, beyond space and time,” he is still truly present in the midst of his creation as “he speaks to us in Scripture and breaks for us the Bread of eternal life.”
Pope Benedict reflected upon Sunday’s Gospel reading in which Christ appears twice to his disciples after the Resurrection. In the Mass, the Pope said, we live the same experience as the disciples did in “seeing Jesus at the same time as not recognizing him: touching his body, a real body, yet free from earthly ties.”
He noted that Christ first appears on the Jewish Sabbath and then again eight days later.
The fact that this second encounter took place on a Sunday, he explained, is “very strong proof of the resurrection of Christ” because only an “extraordinary and disturbing event” could induce the early Christians to start worshipping on a day other than the Jewish Sabbath.
The Pope also noted how Christ repeatedly greeted the disciplines with the words “Peace be with you.” This renders a traditional Jewish greeting into “the gift of peace that only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil.”
This “peace” that Jesus offers to his friends is “the fruit of the love of God that led him to die on the cross, to pour out all of his blood in payment, as the meek and humble Lamb, ‘full of grace and truth,’” he said.
Pope Benedict explained this was why Blessed John Paul II declared the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in 2003. John Paul II had in mind an icon of “the pierced side of Christ, from which flows blood and water,” Pope Benedict explained, referring to the eyewitness testimony of the apostle John.
This icon was also the vision of the Divine Mercy of Christ revealed to the young Polish nun Sister Faustina Kowalska, on Feb. 22, 1931. St. Faustina was canonized by John Paul II in 2000.
“But now Christ is risen,” said the Pope, “and from the living Christ spring the Easter sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. Those who approach them with faith receive the gift of eternal life.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he concluded, “let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us. Let us fill our hearts with his mercy!”