After the Easter celebration which takes forty days of preparation, we are celebrating this Sunday “The Divine Mercy of God”. This feast is held immediately after Easter. We could ask ourselves why such an arrangement by the Church? Dear friends, the feast of Divine Mercy is self-explanatory of the love and compassion which has been shown to humanity through His Son Jesus Christ. In order to make manifest this love, Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins, but on the third day, he was resurrected from death. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has changed our situation of sin into a state of Grace. The motive of this act of God the Father and God the Son is “mercy”. Therefore, God reveals His mercy through His Son Jesus Christ. Talking about the mercy of God, Saint John Paul II said that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Dives in Misericordia).
Dear friends, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, the liturgical readings are inviting us to reflect on the theme: “Peace be with you”.
Thus, in the first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we are told about the way of life of the first Christian community. This community was composed of the apostles and the followers of the Lord. Their community was characterized by four principles, which are (1) instruction by the Apostles, (2) contribution of offerings, (3) solemn partaking of food together, and (4) prayers. This young community shaped the life of their community based on the example of Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus, while he was with them, was involved in teachings (Luke 5:17). He commented on how the Jews were giving offerings (Mark 12:41-44), he solemnly instituted the Eucharist in the context of a Jewish Paschal meal on Holy Thursday (Mark 14: 22-24) and finally prayer. Jesus always goes to pray (Luke 23:46). The apostles and other disciples of Jesus were committed to their master’s instruction and this helped them to survive despite the hostile environment. Today, as a church, we carry on the teachings and instructions in various ways. For instance, the homily is equal to teaching or instruction. After listening to the readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, a bishop or a priest or a deacon gives us homilies, if it’s a catechist, he gives a reflection. These help us to understand and to deepen our faith. The other three characteristics are going on in a Christian community in the whole world.
Just as the first Christian community was committed to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are also called upon to take in their footsteps because, by doing so, we shall have peace in our hearts. The hearts of the eleven apostles were filled with peace from God when Jesus appeared and wished them “Peace be with you”.
In the gospel, Saint John gives us the exact moment when Jesus Christ went to visit his apostles; “On the evening of that day, the week of the week…”. This is an indication that Jesus appeared to them on the evening after his resurrection, in another way, on Sunday evening. The central message that the evangelist is trying to communicate is that Christ has risen from the dead and he went to encourage the chosen ones to keep their faith in him. He did not only encourage them by breathing on them and wishing them peace, but he also took the opportunity to give them Holy Spirit on the one hand and, on the other hand, he mandated them to forgive sins or retain them. The apostles who locked themselves in the fear of the Jews have received triple gifts: one the gift of peace, two the gift of the Holy Spirit and finally, the gift of forgiving or retaining sins. These gifts enable them to retain their master’s characteristics as we have had them in the first reading.
Following the path of Jesus Christ, they broke the chain of fear and went out and they began proclaiming that Jesus Christ rose. The apostles got confidence and started teaching both Jews and Gentiles. They wanted the whole world to know about Christ and his saving action. It’s within this context that Saint Peter in the second reading of today based his instruction on the living hope that we have received after the resurrection of Jesus. The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ have made us born anew. Meaning that, through the resurrection of Jesus, we have acquired a new status and this status makes us sons and daughters of God. To add to this, we have received an inheritance that is complete, pure, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading from God himself; this inheritance is the access we have to be in union with God on the last day.
Brethren, as we reflect on the theme: “Peace be with you “on this Sunday of Divine Sunday”, I would like us to know that peace begins (1) in the heart when we are committed to God’s work as the first Christian community did in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, (2) when we give room to God in our fear and doubt as was the case of the elven apostles in the gospel, (3) when we realize that we have been born anew in the living hope as saint Peter saying in the second reading. In short, we all need peace and desire peace however, we look for it in the wrong place with the wrong ideology. Today’s readings have indicated to us where to look for peace, peace comes from God. To attain this peace (shalom), we need to be in union with Him.
So as we are celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday today, let us ask for the mercy and the peace of God in our lives as Christians.
Fr. Issere Agre, SVD
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