07 Apr Divine Mercy Sunday
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
My Lord and My God!!!
What stunning words! The first Creed of the Church following the Resurrection. My Lord and My God!!! The words that over the centuries at every single Mass we have pronounced in our hearts as the priest raises the host and the precious blood at the moment of consecration. My Lord and My God!!!!
Thomas touched and he believed. Just as Jesus had shown his wounds to the other disciples he showed his wounds to Thomas and he saw and he believed. Thomas knew that if Christ had come back from the dead, then everything Jesus had said about himself, everything Jesus had claimed to be, was true. Jesus blessed him for his faith…My Lord and my God!!!!
Something very new! Very astonishing is taking place…a new creation. At the beginning of creation God breathed His Spirit into man and woman…the breath of life…at the beginning of the creation of the Church God breathes on his apostles…in both Hebrew and Greek the words for Spirit, breath and wind are the same…ruah in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek. Jesus appears to the apostles that first Easter Sunday…and the first gift He gives them is Peace. The doors were closed. Jesus appears among them…says « Peace be with you » and shows them his hands and his feet. The fruit of peace, the second gift he gives them…they are filled with joy. The third gift…he makes them apostles…he sends them out with a very specific mission…he breathes on them saying: « Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained. » Just as the breath of God breathed life into our first parents at the beginning of creation, so God breathes life into his « renewed » creation, His new church…what is that life…the forgiveness of sin…« Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained. » Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection has won the forgiveness of sin…sin which had marred the first creation,…Jesus has won forgiveness of sin…and he gives his apostles the authority to be messengers and distributors of this forgiveness. By this forgiveness of sin, all of us are elevated to a more sublime intimacy with God than was ever possible before. As St. Paul puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians: « So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. » (2 Cor. 5:17)
How eager Jesus was to give this grace to His new creation. The first thing he does on the very day he rises from the dead is to give His new creation, His Church, the power to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sin. Only God can give His authority to forgive sin to someone else. That first Easter Jesus gives it to his apostles, the first priests, gathered in that upper room where just three days earlier, in that same room, he had given them the Eucharist, the Priesthood and in the example in the washing of the feet, that we must serve one another. That first Easter, Jesus entrusted the apostles with Confession, the Sacrament of Forgiveness of Sins, Reconciliation…the gift of “forgiving sins”, a gift that flows from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and especially from his pierced side. From his wounds a wave of mercy is poured out over all humanity.
Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, the only Mediator between sinful, fallen mankind and the one God who gives us eternal life. He achieved his mediation by his loving obedience to God’s will even through humiliation, torture and death on a cross. This obedience reversed the disobedience of Adam, and re-established communion between God and mankind; it opened once again the flow of God’s grace. In this first appearance to the confused group of apostles on the first Easter he teaches us how he wants that flow of grace to nourish the human family: through the ministry of the church guided by the Apostles. He bequeathed his peace to them; he sent them on a mission just as His Father had sent him; He breathed his Spirit into them; he transferred to them his divine power of absolving sin, the very thing that obstructs our communion with God. Do we wish to find Easter peace? Do we wish to find Easter joy? We need only to dip into the flowing fountain of God’s grace, which is His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Divine Mercy, the forgiveness of sin, is the Easter gift we receive from the Risen Lord.
Thomas said he would not believe unless he saw. So many today also say « I will not believe unless I see. »
We, the members of the church, need to meet this challenge…More and more we must increasingly be living a transparently Christian life –” This “seeing” is what others demand of us. They ask that we reflect Jesus, the Risen Lord in our lives by our selfless love, our unconditional forgiveness and our humble service. The integrity of our lives bears a fundamental witness to others, who want to see the Risen Lord alive and active, working in our lives. This has been the message that Pope Francis has repeated over and over: Christ’s mercy shines forth from us whenever we reach out to the poor, the needy and the marginalized. His mercy shines forth as we remain open to those who struggle in faith. We are called to be able to appreciate the presence of Jesus, crucified and raised, in our own suffering and in our suffering brothers and sisters, thus recognizing the glorified wounds of the Risen Lord in the suffering of others. Those who will not believe unless they see look to us to see and touch the wounds of Christ.
Today’s Gospel teaches us that the Church needs Jesus as its source of power and authority, and that it becomes Christ’s true messenger only when it perfectly loves and obeys Him. The risen Lord gives the Apostles the authority to remit sins in his name. He gives the Apostles the power of God’s mercy for the sinner, the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy. We are also reminded that the clearest way of expressing our belief in the presence of the risen Jesus among us is through our own forgiveness of others. We can’t form a lasting Christian community without such forgiveness. Unless we grow in our forgiveness of others, there is something seriously wrong with our celebration of the Eucharist. Our celebration gives us the grace, the sacramental strength to overcome our weaknesses, if we choose.
The Church — using Scripture and also its two thousand year old experience- has traditionally given us two lists of works of mercy, the corporal and the spirituals ones, for living out Jesus’ sending of us, as the Father had sent him. They are called the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pope Francis has renewed the Church’s call to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in these works:
There are seven in each. The Corporal Works of Mercy:
To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the stranger
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead.
and the Spiritual Works of Mercy:
To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear wrongs patiently.
To forgive offenses willingly.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy urge us to exercise a concrete love toward our neighbor in need.
As I mentioned in my homily on Holy Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI, very famously said « That a Eucharist that does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented. »
Pope Francis has been driving home the same point throughout his pontificate. The Eucharist gives us all the grace we need to transform the whole of our lives because when we cooperate with the grace we receive in the Eucharist it transforms us-…the core person we are…-into an ever more alive and alert companion of God in the world. Incorporating the whole of our lives, it brings us into an intimate communion with the living God-a communion that does not merely endure only as long as we are here at Mass. God-with-us accompanies us as we go into the world to labor and live our everyday lives. Pope Francis calls it being missionary disciples. Relying on the grace we receive here to gives us the strength we need to be witnesses out there.
Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is, however, not merely a static accompaniment. Pope Benedict said: »The Eucharist,” since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transformation of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God. «
Thus those who will not believe because they have not seen … look to us to reflect his image in our daily lives. »
Saint John recommended to the first Christians: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:18) Saint James echoes this: “Be doers of the word and not only hearers of the word.” (James 1:22).
Thomas touched and he believed. « My Lord and My God. » We pray those who we touch and those who come into contact with us…will also see, see the living out of God’s merciful love in our lives… and through our witness come to believe.