Sunday Sermon for April 11, 2021, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year B

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; 1 Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31

In the first reading today, we are told that the first Christians were of one heart and mind. Such unity can only exist when there is no selfishness.  What the first believers show us is that their minds were united in the same truth and their hearts were united in the same love.  They understood that Jesus Himself is Truth and Love; their faith was in the Person of Jesus, true God and true man, crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.

The Apostles, after enduring their crisis of faith, were quickly convinced of the resurrection and, as we see in the first reading, they bore witness to the resurrection with great power.  The timidity which caused them to lock themselves in the upper room after the crucifixion was gone; it was replaced with confidence in the Lord and the conviction to preach the fullness of truth and to live that truth in charity.  As St. John says in the second reading, it is this faith which conquers the world.  What is this faith?  St. John tells us it is the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Many acknowledge Jesus to be the Christ and desire the salvation that is available only through Him, but they do not accept the fullness of truth or live the fullness of love required for complete union with Him.  Recognizing our own need for deeper conversion, we pray for God’s mercy for these people and ourselves that we all accept everything our Lord is and everything He desires to give us in His love.

St. John tells us that the love of God is this: that we keep His commandments.  What are His commandments?  Love God and love neighbor.  This means it is not ours to judge and it is not ours to condemn.  The Lord alone is the Judge and, thankfully, He is a merciful Judge.  As a Judge, we know He is just, so one might notice that we rarely, if ever, pray for God’s justice.  We know that if we received His justice it would probably not be a good day for us.  Instead, we pray for His mercy because His mercy is our only hope.  If this is true for us, then we must extend that same mercy toward others and desire the mercy of God for them.

Look at the mercy our Lord shows His Apostles in the Gospel reading today.  First, He appears when they are all frightened and doubting.  Rather than chastise them, He says: “Peace be with you.”  There is no hint of anger or even disappointment.  He extends only good to His Apostles.  In case they persisted in their doubts, He showed them His hands and side, then extended His peace to them a second time. 

After this, He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit along with the authority to forgive sins.  When we think of the mercy of God, our primary thought focuses on the forgiveness of sin.  But when we see our Lord’s gentleness and charity toward the Apostles in their weakness, we have great hope and reason for confidence that He will not only forgive us, but He will do so with the greatest charity, gentleness, and peace.  All this is part of His mercy where we see that the forgiveness of sins is not merely a juridical act that can be cold and harsh; rather, our Lord’s mercy is an expression of His love for us which is given with profound tenderness.

Finally, we come to St. Thomas who refused to believe, even when all the others told them about their experience.  The Lord gave Thomas a week during which, it seems, he was only hardened in his unbelief.  Once again, when our Lord appears, there is no anger or harshness; He wishes them peace and invites Thomas to touch the wounds in His hands and side.  Thomas then makes his act of faith: “My Lord and my God!”  His act of faith cannot be the result of seeing Jesus’ wounds or even accepting His resurrection.  It is the result of our Lord’s mercy which brought St. Thomas to the true faith that made him victorious over the world and his own unbelief.

This is the same disposition our Lord has toward us in our weakness and sinfulness.  However, it is also the model for us of the mercy we must extend to others in their weakness and sinfulness.  It is much easier to judge and be harsh, but that is not the way our Lord shows us.  The mercy we receive from Him is the mercy we must extend to others.  This love and mercy fulfill our Lord’s command; our faith, which inspires this love and mercy, makes us victorious over the world.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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