Divine Mercy Sunday

First reading: Acts 5:12–16

Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s portico. None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

Second reading: Rev. 1:9–11a,12–13,17–19

I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, “Write on a scroll what you see.” Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.

When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.”

Gospel: Jn. 20:19–31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

In other words Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD (Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City)

The Second Sunday of Easter concludes our celebration of Holy Week and the joyful days of Easter Week. On these days we have tried our best to enter into the heart of the mystery of our faith, the triumph of Jesus over sin and death through the Cross and Resurrection. We prepared for it through the season of Lent, and we will try to continue living it out in the joyful spirit of Easter until the feast of Pentecost.

In recent years another dimension has been added to the celebration of the second Sunday of Easter, that of Divine Mercy. On April 30, 2000, the canonization of Faustina Kowalska took place. On the same occasion, the second Sunday of Easter was designated as Divine Mercy Sunday. Initially this declaration of Pope John Paul II raised some questions and discussion among liturgical scholars because of the centuries-old tradition that no feasts or other celebrations are permitted to replace the Sundays of Easter, Lent, and certain other times of the liturgical year. This prohibition applies, most especially, to all the days of Holy Week and Easter Week. There was some worry expressed that giving a special name to the second Sunday of Easter might be seen to be a breach of this principle and might, perhaps, be seen as a weakening of the central importance of the Easter season in the Church’s calendar.

Upon further reflection, however, it became clear that there was no need for any anxiety, however, well-meant. A subsequent statement from Pope John Paul II, issued in the year 2001, emphasized how divine mercy is part of the resurrection context of Easter. So it was not the Pope’s intention to downgrade Easter in any way, still less to replace the second Sunday of Easter with another feast. On the contrary, this Sunday can be called Divine Mercy Sunday precisely because it highlights mercy to be the key element of the message of Easter. In the opening prayer of the Mass, God is already addressed as the “Heavenly Father and God of mercy.” It was through mercy that God gave his only son for the salvation of all humanity. The first letter of Peter is rich in references to God’s great mercy, which “gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfailing… (v. 3).”

The Gospel reading could almost be described as a hymn to mercy. Here Jesus bestows the healing gift of peace as he shows his disciples the marks of the wounds of his crucifixion. And he opens the door to a constant stream of mercy by bestowing on his Church the wonderful gift of the sacrament of reconciliation or confession. And how blessed is Thomas to receive a remarkable outpouring of mercy despite all his doubts and struggles.

Today, the second Sunday of Easter is indeed a powerful reminder of how merciful God is. As a feast of Divine Mercy, it underlines the meaning and power of Easter for us. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus is God’s greatest gift to humanity as it opens the door to eternal life. Let us never fail to trust in this mercy and to have recourse to Jesus, our merciful Savior. It is the way to an ever-deeper conversion of life. To quote the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, “Yes, the Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.” 

This entry was posted in The Word in Other Words and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.