The Risen Christ Extends Mercy and Peace
User’s Guide to Divine Mercy Sunday
Sunday, April 16, is Divine Mercy Sunday. Mass readings: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31.
This Gospel has a lot to say to us about where to find the Lord’s blessing: in the community of the Church, in his word, and in the sacraments.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews …” The text says nothing about what they are doing, only that they have gathered. But, in a sense, this is all we need to know, for this will set the stage for blessings and for the presence of the Risen Lord. The locked doors signify their fear of the Jewish authorities. One may also assume that they are discouraged, lacking in hope, and maybe even angry. They have experienced the earthquake that Jesus’ crucifixion was for them. Some of the women in their midst claim to have seen him alive, but now it is night, and they have heard of no other sightings. At least they’re in the right place.
“Jesus came and stood in their midst and … he showed them his hands and his side … and said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’” Suddenly, there is a completely new reality, a new hope, a new vision, a new serenity, a peace but only for those who are present. This is a basic purpose of the Sacred Liturgy. Through the proclaimed word, we are increasingly enabled to see things in a new way that gives us hope, clarity and confidence. Further, the Lord has “prepared a table for me in the sight of my enemies” (Psalm 23). The Eucharist is thus the sign of our victory and our election. As we receive the Body and the Blood of the Lord, we are gradually transformed into the very likeness of Christ.
“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them … ‘I will not believe.’” Thomas is not with the other apostles on Resurrection evening. Thus, he misses the blessing of seeing and experiencing the Resurrection and the Lord. Second, he also refuses to believe the testimony of the Church that the Lord has risen. Some people want Jesus without the Church — no can do. Jesus is found in his Church, among those who have gathered. There is surely joy to be found in a personal relationship with Jesus, but the Lord also announced a special presence whenever two or three are gathered in his name. It is essential for us to discover how Mass attendance is essential for us if we want to experience the healing and blessings of the Lord.
The Gospel indicates that, the following week, Thomas returns to fellowship with the other apostles. Whatever his struggle with the faith, he has chosen to work it out in fellowship with the Church. He has gathered with the others. Now comes the blessing: He sees the Risen Lord. It is a provocative but essential truth that Christ is found in the Church. Any aspects of Jesus’ presence that are found outside the Church are mere glimpses or shadows emanating from the Church. He must be sought where he is found, among sinners in his Church. The Church is his Body and his Bride. It is here that he is found.
The Risen Lord is right here, right now:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.
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