Divine Mercy Sunday Archbishop O’Brien

On this second Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  We find this theme expressed in our opening prayer when God is addressed as “God of everlasting mercy”, as well as in the psalm when we gave thanks to the Lord for “his steadfast love endures forever”.

In today’s gospel, we have a portrait of Jesus’s followers – a dispirited group of disciples huddled together behind closed doors on the evening of Easter.  Into this scene, Jesus, the Risen Lord, enters.  As Risen Lord, he is not constrained by material obstacles such as locked doors.  His first word to them is “Peace”, and his first gesture is to show them his “glorified wounds”.  He is not there to scold them or to rebuke them for their cowardice, but,  rather, to embrace them, to love them, and to forgive them.

What is this peace that he offers them?  One author makes the point that the peace that Jesus gives the disciples is not just peace as we normally understand it in our day-to-day lives, where the security of one moment is replaced by the anxiety of the next.  The peace that Jesus brings is his abiding presence, which transcends the vagaries of this world.  “Jesus does not stop the chaos of this world.  Rather, he is present within it, calming and untroubling  the heart, bringing peace.” (J. Shea, The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels, Luke C, p.108)

Jesus next shows them his glorified wounds.  This gesture is not just to confirm who he is,  but to indicate that this peace or sharing in the divine life has been mediated through the open wounds of Christ.

Jesus then offers them peace a second time and commissions them, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  Commenting on this, the author I quoted earlier makes the point that “…divine life cannot be possessed.  It can only be received and given away.  Therefore, they are immediately sent…..they have to give the life they have received to others.  The chain is established – from the Father to Jesus to the disciples, and, by implication, to whomever the disciples will commission.”(Shea p.109)   We see this exemplified in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, as the apostles are carrying on the healing work of Jesus.

But, in order for Jesus’s followers to fulfill their mission, they have to have the power that comes from the Holy Spirit; and, so, in a gesture reminiscent of the creation of man in Genesis, when God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam, Jesus breathes on the disciples, and they become a new creation, living by the breath of God and sharing in the work of the Spirit which is to bring unity.

As I mentioned on Good Friday, what destroys unity is sin, because sin causes separation within us.  As St. Paul says: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Romans 7:19.  Sin also separates us from others, and, of course, causes our separation from God.

The mission that is given to the disciples is to heal division through the forgiveness of sins.  This most surely can be seen as encompassing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but it is also the work of  the Christian community and every one of its members as we work to heal wounds and division which people have with God, and with each other.  This Holy Year of Mercy invites us to do this in a particular way by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

There is another important theme or message which is contained in today’s gospel, and it is centred on the figure of Thomas, who was absent from this first appearance or presence of Jesus among his disciples.  Thomas is portrayed in the gospel as one who is outspoken, generous, ready to go to death for his Master, and, as we see from the account  of the Last Supper, prepared to ask the questions that perhaps others were thinking but  nobody else dares ask.  When Jesus appears again eight days later, Thomas is not set to simply accept the testimony of the others.  He wants some physical confirmation that this is truly Jesus; he wants to probe the marks of Jesus’s death.  When Jesus appears the second time, he offers him this opportunity to place his fingers in the nail holes and to put his hand in his side, but Thomas doesn’t do this.  He simply affirms his faith, not only that this is Jesus, but that this Jesus is Lord:  “My Lord and my God”.

Commenting on this scene, one author explains that “believing is not a matter of physical observation but of realizing spiritual truth”. (Shea p.112.)  After all, Thomas had known Jesus in his earthly life; he has had plenty of opportunities to observe him, but that never led him to say “My Lord and My God”.  However, here, he doesn’t just recognize Jesus; he doesn’t just say “Jesus it’s you”.  He acknowledges who Jesus is, “My Lord and My God”.  This represented an act of faith in the reality and identity of the person standing before him.


Today, in our world, where the scientific mentality is so prominent, and the physical, the measurable, the verifiable are so important, belief is difficult for many.  But, as one theologian comments:  “God isn’t hidden; we just don’t have eyes to see God because our eyes aren’t attuned to that kind of reality”. (R. Rohlheiser on K. Rahner Center for Liturgy May 1, 2011)  The gospel passage is telling us that all belief in Jesus has to go beyond what our physical senses can perceive.  Not many of us will have a vision of the son of Man such as John recounts in  the Book of Revelation, but we do have many ways to nurture our faith:

  • When we reflect on God’s word;
  • When we gather to pray and to receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments;
  • When we serve the poor, the needy, the sick and the oppressed with whom Christ especially identifies.

These are but some of the ways which can lead us to that “peace” which Christ wants us to have – an abiding peace: “a peace that the world cannot give”.


The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.