Friday, April 13, 2012

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday Acts 4:32-35/ Psalm 118/1John 5:1-6/ John 20:19-31

THEME: The unfathomable mercy of God

Today we join with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy! The prayer “Jesus I trust in you” is the heart of the Divine Mercy devotion. The mercy of God is our only hope - and every day, as we walk the difficult paths of life, we learn to whisper over and over again, deep down in our hearts: Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you. This simple prayer of faith, this grace of confident trust, is a gift from the merciful God which gives us power to do all sorts of things in our spiritual lives.

To Saint Faustina Our Lord said: "I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. The soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened." (Diary, 699).This day we celebrate the richness, meaning, participation in and application of God's mercy for us.

Last week Sunday, I told you that the resurrection of Jesus does not end his earthly ministry but opens up for us a new dimension to his ministry namely a continuation of his work. Thus, the readings from the Acts of the Apostles take the place of the Old Testament readings during the Easter season in each of the cycles A, B, and C. such readings are appropriate because they show the continued work of the risen Christ in his Church.

One of the outcomes of the Resurrection is the formation of a community of believers. This is to reiterate the fact that the Easter events are not an individual affair but a community one. Therefore, no one can be an effective Christian in isolation. The Early Church did more than make converts; they also made disciples. A disciple is one who sits at the feet of his master to learn. Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday, a day set aside by Pope John Paul II of blessed memory to reflect the mercy of God. Let us, therefore, drink deep from this fountain of mercy at our disposal.

In the first reading, Luke presents us with the features of the new community of believers constituted as a consequence of the resurrection. Having preached repentance and forgiveness of sins, about three thousand persons were added to the apostolic community. This new community “Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). Today, as a community of believers, can we say that we are devoted to the teachings of the apostles; to fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers? These things form the basis of any Christian community. Therefore, if we cannot find them in our community, then our communities are non-existent; they have no root. The Church’s prayer is, therefore, founded on apostolic faith; authenticated by charity; nourished in the Eucharist.

Furthermore, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). I must emphasise that the kind of fellowship (in Greek Koinonia) that existed among the Early Church means more than “Being together.” It means “having in common” and probably refers to sharing of material goods. This was not a form of modern communism, for the programme was totally voluntary, temporary and motivated by love.

Moreover, “Day by day as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and having the good will of all people” (Acts 2:46-47). We are told that they not only met in the temple, but in their homes. This brings out clearly the need for the Basic Christian Communities (BCC). Our homes must truly reflect what Vatican II calls the Domestic Church where the Word of God is shared; faith matters are discussed and above all where food is shared.

The Gospel reading brings out clearly the beginnings of the Early Church. After Jesus’ death, they locked themselves up for fear of the Jews. For what they were doing, we are not told. But at least, they recognize that in unity lies their strength. They were together. It was in the togetherness that the greatest thing happened to them, “Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you” (John 20:19b). The kind of peace Jesus gave his disciples is a peace that renewed their faith in him and drove away all fears, useless worries and anxieties.

Again, it was when they were together that they received the great commission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he has said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). This is where the Church received the power to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The power to forgive sins was not given to individuals but to the Church. Thus those who are questioning the authenticity of this sacrament must assess their intentions and avail themselves for it (Prayer of Absolution).

Why was Thomas not with the other disciples? Was he disappointed that the resurrection was a fiasco? When we are discouraged, and defeated, we need our friends all the more. Solitude only feeds discouragement and helps it to grow into self-pity, which is even worse. Thomas is a good warning to all of us not to miss meeting together as a community of believers (Hebrews 10:25). Because Thomas was not there when Jesus came, he missed seeing Jesus Christ, hearing His words of peace and receiving His commission and gift of spiritual life. He had to endure a week of fear and unbelief when he could have been experiencing joy and peace! Remember Thomas when you are tempted to stay home from Church. You never know what special blessing you might miss!
For the Christian every Sunday is the Day of the Resurrection or the Day of the Lord. We cannot afford to miss the meeting of the assembly. Just as the Early Church did in the past, in the celebration of the Mass, we also devote ourselves to apostles’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Doubt no more, because as John puts it “… But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Let us not have an unbelieving heart that turns us away from the Lord (Hebrews 3:12).

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus wishes to bear with our doubts, our betrayals and our sign of faithlessness just as he did with the disciples. He invites us to drink deep into the fountain of mercy which his resurrection brings us.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, the responsorial psalm and Gospel for Cycles A, B and C center on the theme of mercy. In Psalm 118 we sing three times, “His mercy endures forever.” The Gospel, from John 20:19-31, begins with the risen Christ appearing to the apostles on Easter night. Jesus calms his disciples by saying and giving them “Peace.” He shows them the scars of his Passion, his wounded hands and side. His glorified body retains the evidence of his saving work through his suffering, death and resurrection.

He fills them with joy and again says to them—and produces in them—“Peace.” Then he breathes on them and explains what the divine breathing means with the words, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He gives the apostles the power of God’s mercy for the sinner, the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy. The other texts speak of healing and give the assurance there is nothing to fear.

From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to the Eighth Day of Easter, the divine love song of mercy is chanted amid abundant alleluias. For centuries in liturgy the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. The tables of Word and Sacrament are heaped with the promises of Divine Mercy and its grand effect in the lives of millions. The liturgy is the storehouse of the wisdom of God and a treasure chest for all the worshipers.

In conclusion, the Christians you meet in the book of Acts of the Apostles were not content to meet once a week for “services as usual.” They met daily (Acts 2:46), cared daily (Acts 6:1), won souls daily (Acts 2:47), searched the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) and increased in number daily (Acts 2:47). Their faith was a day to day reality, not a once-a-week routine. Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them and his resurrection power was at work in their lives through the Spirit. The promise is still good: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Have you called? Have you trusted Jesus Christ to save you?

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