Divine Mercy Sunday. Download: Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
Living through a time where nothing feels like it used to?
I’m not yet referring to our present situation because of the COVID 19 pandemic, but rather as a question asked of those first disciples in the first days and weeks after the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel extract from St John in Mass today tells us that those disciples of Jesus who had remained in Jerusalem following the crucifixion were in lockdown! They were together not just in one house, but in one room in one house! Now that’s not social isolation as we know it now! However, it was a type of social isolation…not because of a pandemic…but because of fear. Jesus had been crucified as a criminal with a hint of subversiveness (proclaimed even by Pontius Pilate as “King of the Jews” at his execution). So being a disciple of the executed one was not a social plus…fear of capture and of a similar fate hung in the air like a contagion.
To deepen the anxiety there were some rumours beginning to circulate among them that some of the disciples had seen The Lord alive in the vicinity of His tomb. Confusion and fear…never a good combination. But rather than this becoming become a time of abandonment and fear, the next 40 odd days were to become a “school of resurrection faith and belief” which was to become the faith we share today, especially after the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on to the gathered community at Pentecost.
Our readings at Sunday Mass in the coming weeks are chosen to help us by reading them, although currently separated and in our own zone of fear, become a school of resurrection faith…not as a type of “pie in the sky” optimism, but as a sense of connection to the risen Lord, a connection stronger than any fear or disaster that can affect us. The Lord Jesus came back to life in his crucified body: the resurrection was not simply a “spiritual” transformation but rather a new life embodied in the “real” and the familiar. His risen self was clearly different, yet still had the marks on his body which confirmed who He is. The great apostle of this understanding is Thomas.
At least two powerful events happen in this gospel extract for today. Firstly the risen Jesus comes into the gathering of disciples. It’s unlikely that he used a door, but there He was stood amongst them. We are told His greeting was affirmative to the gathering: “Peace be with you” and he established who he was by showing them his hands, his feet and the hole made by the spear in his side. He says the same words to us and to all humanity today: “Peace be with you”. Peace in the Semitic sense, not just the absence of violence and conflict, but health and wholeness of body mind and spirit…the Shalom of Jesus. This He wishes upon humanity again and again, especially upon those in the school of the resurrection.
The second event is probably more remarkable, amazing even. John’s gospel (unlike Luke/Acts) gives us the Pentecost moment within the Lord’s first encounter with the gathered Jerusalem community. Disciples who are still raw with fear, disappointment, confusion even despair…He put his breath, (in Hebrew Ruach,) his Spirit upon them and gave them the authority to bind and to forgive sins. Amazing! Remember that one of the frequent comments of the Scribes and Pharisees against Jesus’ teaching and miracles is that “only God can forgive sins”. Jesus shares his divinity with the gathered community and gives them a mandate to believe and to live the gift of forgiveness.
Here is the Lord, entering the lives of this shattered community and giving to them the authority to forgive sins. What an amazing act of faith in itself! What a mission to recall on this Divine Mercy Sunday as Low Sunday is also called now. The risen Lord inviting his followers to take that Divine Mercy across humanity in his name. Holy Church does that still today in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation and witnesses to it most strongly in Holy Mass where we recall the passion and resurrection of the Lord. The Lord entering lives that are bound by brokenness and fear and inviting those lives to become the school of the resurrection by staying close to Him even when we might feel neglected and isolated.
As the current lockdown and pandemic continues to claim lives and attention, let us focus on the peace of the risen Christ, let us live and share His “Shalom” and not be afraid to drawn upon the gift of forgiveness He has given to his Church.
Pray for me!