FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Second Sunday of Easter (B) or Sunday of the Divine Mercy
Acts 4:32-35 | Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 | 1 John 5:1-6 | John 20:19-31
Although Easter Sunday was a week ago, Easter is far from over. Easter season is a 50-day period from Easter to Pentecost Sunday (which is May 23rd this year). Today, we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter. On this Sunday of the Divine Mercy, we listen to reminders that even though we have not seen Christ, we nonetheless are filled with joy as we place our belief in his resurrection and unending mercy.
Russell, 10 year-old boy, entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. Nida, a waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is a cookies and cream sundae?” Russell asked. “₱40.00,” replied the waitress. Russell pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins he had. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream sundae?” he inquired. By now, more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing very impatient. “₱30.00,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. Nida brought the plain ice cream sundae, put the bill on the table and walked away. Russell finished the ice cream sundae, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry. As she wiped down the table, there placed neatly beside the empty dish was ₱70.00. You see, he couldn’t have the cookies and cream sundae because he had to have enough money to leave her a tip.
The First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles presents a summary of the life of the very first Christian community, which was formed in Jerusalem. The author emphasizes that they “were of one heart and soul”. Belief in the resurrection compelled them to care for others. They feel responsible for their poor brethren by having less or nothing. "There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need." The community was living Divine Mercy. They met each other’s needs through mutual aid by prioritizing the common good above personal wealth. This was a concrete witness to the power of the resurrection faith at work in the human heart.
Feeling fed up, Carmen left Rolly, her husband. Rolly called the police and filed a “missing persons report.” A few weeks later the police found her a few towns over. They asked Rolly if he wanted them to take him to Carmen. By now Rolly had realized how poorly he had treated his wife. He decided to write to Carmen, and he did for months. Finally, Christmas came, and he went to see her (she was in a run down apartment). Rolly asked Carmen to come home and she did. On the way home he said, “I’ve written you for months, why did you come home so easily today?” She replied, “Because those were just letters, this time you came in person.”
The second reading spells out in more detail what believing in the risen Jesus enables us to do: love God and others. Everyone who believes in Christ is empowered to love God and one another. This two-fold commandment summarizes the entire Christian life. Our faith is about Jesus, me and others. John reminds us that everyone who claims to love God, especially one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, has to love all the others whom God has created. And you have to start with the people closest to you — your family. It’s a sobering thought to consider that all we do to and for our children and spouse — good and bad — is a reflection of how we treat Jesus every day. Saint Teresa of Calcutta hit the nail on its head when she said, "Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action." Just as Rolly came in person to "kiss and make-up" with Carmen, Christ came in person to save us and show us His love — in person.
A mother once approached the tyrant emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France, seeking pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed theft twice, and justice demanded death. “But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I beg for mercy.” “But your son does not deserve mercy,” the tyrant emperor replied. “Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” “Well, then,” Napoleon said, “I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son.
At the entrance to Church of All Nations or the Basilica of the Agony, next to the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, there is a sign warning every visitor: “NO EXPLANATIONS INSIDE THE CHURCH.” The sign is intended to discourage over-talkative tour guides but it’s also what Jesus practiced after his resurrection. No explaining or blaming. He simply wished his apostles peace and forgave them. It is shameful to admit for the apostles that they abandoned their Master in his darkest hour in the garden of Gethsemane. Everyone deserted Jesus and fled on the night before his crucifixion. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears in the midst of his apostles who are locked up, hiding and afraid. Imagine seeing the man who you knew was brutally crucified to death and who you had completely abandoned— standing in your locked room looking better than ever! The apostles must have died of embarrassment upon seeing Jesus again. It is no surprise that the first words Jesus says to them is “Peace be with you.” If I were him, my first words to them would have been “Shameless! Y'all left me just when I needed you most." Jesus could have said that and have been right for doing so, but he didn’t. Mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve. It is something that is only freely given, a gift.
Jesus knew the apostles would fail. He knew they would abandon Him. But He didn’t hold their sins against them. In fact, thanks to the Lord’s Divine Mercy, their failures became a source of strength from which they could draw to help others receive Christ’s forgiveness, too. Not only does Jesus forgive them, he now makes them the normal instrument of his forgiveness to the world. Jesus breathes on them and says to them “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Christ has entrusted the ministry of Reconciliation to his apostles, to the bishops who are their successors and to the priests who are the collaborators of the bishops.
Dr. Reginald, a well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a ₱1000 bill. In the room of 200, he asked. "Who would like this ₱1000 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this ₱1000 bill to one of you - but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the ₱1000 note up. He then asked. "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air. "My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth ₱1000. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way but God refuses to give up on us. As Pope Francis teaches, "God never tires of forgiving us. It’s we who get tired of asking for forgiveness." When we fail, we don’t need to get discouraged. Jesus, the Divine Mercy, can make us whole again, if we go to Him and ask for forgiveness, confess our sins, receive at least a spiritual Communion, forgive others as he has forgiven us, and then keep going back to the Lord again and again for strength. The Risen Christ, his church and his forgiveness are not just abstract ideas we believe in. Truly risen, Jesus establishes a real church with real people and a real means to bestow Divine Mercy by means of the sacraments. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum