Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting Faith and the need for the forgiveness of sins. Last year we celebrated the “Year of Mercy” as announced by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Though the Year of Mercy is over, the Holy Father has invited us to continue to celebrate God’s mercy.
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The reading describes the faith of the early Christians and invites us to become like those early Christians, who not only grew in their relationships with God, but also cared for one another. The reading explains how the Risen Lord continued to show His Divine Mercy to the sick through the healing and preaching ministry of His apostles in the early Church. The apostles’ faith enabled them to minister to the people, giving them the Lord’s healing love through “signs and wonders” that the Risen Lord performed through them. Following the model of service set forth by Jesus, the apostles healed the sick by wielding God’s power over disease and unclean spirits. These cures illustrate how the power of the Resurrection can work miracles, even through ordinary people and in everyday life. We know that this Power of the Resurrection still operates today because we know that a friendly smile, a gentle touch, or the willingness to forgive can heal a broken spirit.
In the second reading, Saint Peter glorifies God, the Father of Jesus Christ, for showing us His mercy by granting to His Son, Jesus, Resurrection from the dead and glorious Ascension into Heaven. Jesus’ Resurrection gives us a guarantee for our own resurrection and entry into Heaven, which Saint Peter beautifully explains as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading kept in heaven for you.” Saint Peter encouraged the early Christians by assuring them that their sufferings under the Roman emperor, their religious authorities, and their own pagan family members would be amply compensated by the Heavenly reward waiting for them. Peter, therefore, tells them not to give up or get discouraged; they must persevere in faith.
The Gospel reading discusses the apostles’ fears after Jesus’ death. With the death of Jesus, the disciples became faithless and disappointed and went into hiding. Recognizing their fear and genuine love for the Lord, Jesus appears to them and offers them peace; not condemnation nor punishment, but peace. Thomas, in his uncompromising honesty, demanded a personal vision of Jesus, and physical contact with the risen Jesus as a condition for his belief. Thomas had not been with the apostles when Jesus first appeared to them. As a result, he refused to believe until he verified Jesus’ resurrection with his own eyes. This, however, should serve as a warning to us. It is difficult to believe when we do
not have a personal relationship with the Lord and do not strengthen ourselves with the fellowship of other believers. When the Lord appeared to the apostles later, He said: “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.” Thomas was able to overcome his doubts by seeing the risen Jesus. We may not be able to see Jesus like Thomas, so how do we profess our faith? Paul has advice for us. He says, “Faith comes from hearing.” (Rom. 10:17.) We are very fortunate today as we have many more opportunities to hear and experience the good news about Jesus than the early Christians did.
Having strengthened their faith, Jesus gave the apostles an important responsibility: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The healing ministry of the Church reminds us of God’s care for us and His mercy, in spite of our weaknesses. Let us ask God our Father to open our hearts so that we may receive His Mercy and the gift of faith.
Faith enables us to see the Risen Lord in everyone and gives us the willingness to render to each other our loving service, just as the early Christians did. The spiritual Fathers prescribe the following traditional means to grow in the living and dynamic faith of Saint Thomas the Apostle: a) we must come to know Jesus personally and intimately by our daily and meditative reading of the Bible; b) we must strengthen our Faith through our personal and community prayer; and c) we must share in the Divine Life of Jesus by frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Another way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. According to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, a practical way of growing in faith is prayer. She says, “If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve. Only then we put our love of God into action.”