Why is this Sunday called Divine Mercy Sunday?


 

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Why is this Sunday called Divine Mercy Sunday? Because Pope John Paul II saw in the visions of a Polish saint, Blessed Faustina, a message Jesus Christ wished the world to focus on more–His Divine Mercy. His Mercy is powerfully shown in today’s Gospel as the newly-risen Savior appears to those who had betrayed Him, those who in weakness had run far away from the soldiers and from the mock trials—and from their Master in His three-hour agony and death. As Jesus came through those locked doors where they had huddled in fear of arrest, He did not upbraid or condemn them, but said with loving compassion, “Peace be with You.” He forgave them for their weakness, their cowardice, and their sinfulness. He continued to heal them of their doubts and their fears. Second, He did not fire them from their ministry, but commissioned them to preach His Name to the ends of the earth. He restored His trust in them, and loved them even more. He would eventually send His Spirit to strengthen them with His Divine Power.

As Jesus showed His Divine Mercy to His apostles on this Sunday, the Church urges us to show our gratitude and belief in His never-failing forgiveness for our sins and betrayals of His love. He urges us to pray often for a world that has abandoned His commandments, ignored His words, shunned His healing, and rejected His love.

The world was never the same after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The first reading today describes a scene in the temple of spectacular healings. No, it’s not Jesus who is the central figure, but the power of the Holy Spirit now present in Jesus’ apostles. They are continuing God’s mercy and compassion toward the sick and the crippled and the lame. Since Jesus had died on the cross not just for some, but for all people, His followers show no discrimination in healing both rich and poor, Jews and strangers to Jerusalem.

The Gospel for today’s liturgy, from John, has three distinct, yet united sections. Jesus appears to the frightened apostles, minus one. He offers them peace, and then offers them his mission which he received from his Father, and then breathed upon their chaos and through the gift of the Spirit tendered the gift of forgiving sins.  Seven days later he appears to the same group of apostles, plus one. This one, Thomas, needed to see signs and wonders. Jesus invited him to read the signs and wonder no more. Thomas did just that.

Old Thomas is such a good friend of ours. So are the apostles gathered together from fear and separated by their individual shame at having abandoned their Teacher and Lord. We have our doubts, our fears, our shames, and our desires to see just a little bit more so that our faith will be strengthened. It seems that God knows us more than we know ourselves. A little bit more would always be just a little bit more of what we would want. Thomas wanted to see more than he had heard his companions had seen. Seeing is not believing, but rather believing is a way of seeing beyond what can blind us. 

This seeing beyond is the gift of the Spirit and it leads to our being sent out beyond as well. We are sent, as he was sent to us, to attract others to the Sender. How we live this faith-seeing is a graceful insult to this seeing-everything world. We who try to live this beyond-sight way are a sign and wonder for this present age. Our struggles to live faithful, hopeful, and love-full lives by going out, being sent, is the miracle of our times.

 

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