1st Reading = Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47
Psalm Response = 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
2nd Reading = 1 Peter 1: 3-9
Gospel = John 20: 19-31
Opening Remarks – Vision:
In 2015 Pope Francis promulgated a Jubilee Year of Mercy and expressed his hope that “it would accomplish for all believers, a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God, a living experience of the closeness of the Father, that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.” The Pope’s obvious intent was for all the faithful to have a personal encounter with the living God and share that encounter as a living witness of our faith.
How Jesus’ Disciples acted:
Today’s first reading snapshots the ideal Christian community where leaders and parishioners work in harmony to grow faith through gathering, praying, preaching, and celebrating the Eucharist. This post-Pentecost faith community saw the outgrowth of attending Mass as foundational to caring for each other and the wider community, spiritually and temporally. Living the sacramental life, and the action of bringing Jesus to others are key to our personal holiness.
Today’s Psalm response, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting,” equates God’s unconditional, sacrificial love with mercy. The thrice repeated strobe, “… his mercy endures forever,” conveys the importance of our understanding that God’s mercy offers us undeserved grace, pardon, and giftedness, and entrusts us with the task of imitating His mercy. Once we recognize this great truth, our response can be nothing less than thankfulness for God’s spiritual and material blessings and in turn offering what we have as a blessing to others. Read Psalm 118 daily for the next week. Immersing yourself deeply in this song of thanksgiving will help keep a litany of negativity in check and replace it with a Litany of praise.
After Peter denied Jesus in His darkest hour of pain, our Lord thrice asked Peter if he loved Him (John 21:15-17). In today’s second reading, Peter encourages us to rejoice in, “a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Such a foundational joy based on the unchanging promises of Jesus Christ will safeguard our faith through various trials we may have to endure. Peter declares, these trials may be for our good, so that the genuineness of our faith may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor of Christ.
Had we never experienced sadness we would not appreciate joy. Unless doubt visited our minds on occasion, faith may not have been strengthened. If we were sinless, we would not have sought a redeemer. Lyrics to the song, “Through it all” – Andre Crouch are: “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys, and I thank Him for the storms He has brought me through. For if I never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them, I’d never know what faith in His word could do. That’s the reason I say that through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus.” Have trials that you have encountered made your joy full and your faith increase?
Divine Mercy – Easter Joy:
Today’s Gospel exemplifies the highest form of mercy acts followed by incredible joy. John vividly captures the scene. Jesus’ disciples, still grieving over His brutal punishment and death, fearful about going on without him and frightened that their own lives are in jeopardy from the same people who murdered their Lord are locked in a room. Suddenly, without a sound, Jesus miraculously appeared before them and spoke those calming, comforting words, “Peace be with you.” And as a greater act of mercy, showed them visible signs of His nail-scarred hands and lance-pierced side. Is it any wonder that John writes, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord?” In this joy-filled but tense moment, Jesus could have reviled them for their cowardly acts of abandonment. He could have singled out Peter for his thrice denial or expressed bitter disappointment and issued a stern warning that they were all under probation until they earned His trust again. Did their momentary acts of weakness compromise the apostolic mission so that new, more committed, or faithful apostles might have to be chosen?
No, none of these condemnations came from our Lord’s lips; only words of comfort, peace, forgiveness, and confidence evidenced by confirming their commission. “He breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” In this most trying and intensely difficult time where severe admonition could have been called for, Divine Mercy was freely given, and Jesus established Reconciliation as the healing Sacrament of mercy. One week later, mercy so freely given to the other ten Apostles was personally extended to Thomas. He responded, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 24-29).
You and I desperately need God’s Divine Mercy and its corresponding joy. God wants to be asked.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7: 7).
Closing Comments and Questions: As disciples of Jesus, how can you and I habitually practice His love and mercy?
- Simplify your life. Be content with basic personal needs and refocus your time and talent on improving the well-being of others.
- Don’t say you will pray and walk away. Pray for people on the spot.
- Center your thoughts and actions more on forgiveness than fault, mercy more than criticism, love and compassion more than winning an argument.
- Give more than a minimal effort in your service to the Lord and others.