The second Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting faith and our need for the forgiveness of sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as “God of everlasting Mercy.” In the responsorial psalm we repeat several times, “His mercy endures forever.” God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son, to become our Savior and Lord by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Divine mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the Sacraments, instituted to sanctify us.
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 exemplified 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 ordinary circumstances of 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.
While the first reading from Acts calls our attention to the corporal works of mercy, the second reading, taken from St. John’s first letter, focuses on both corporal and spiritual works of mercy. John urges our obedience to the commandments given by God, especially the commandment of love as clarified by Jesus. Loving others as Jesus loves us demands that we treat others with the same mercy and compassion that Jesus expressed. John reminds us that everyone who claims to love God, especially those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, has to love the others whom God has begotten. We are to conquer the world by putting our faith in Jesus and in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, two sacraments of Divine Mercy that Jesus instituted. The “water” refers to Jesus’ baptism, at the beginning of His ministry. The “blood” refers to Jesus’ bloody death at the end of his ministry. Both refer to the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.
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 that Jesus had risen from the dead 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: “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. We experience this healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we confess our sins. 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. According to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, a practical way of growing in faith is through prayer, spending time with the Lord in prayer. She said, “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.”