HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B. DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
HOMILY THEME: HIS MERCY ENDURES FOREVER!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
On Good Friday, Jesus suffered not only extreme physical pain, and worse still, emotional and moral pain. His trusted disciples abandoned him. Judas sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Peter denied him three times. And the rest of the disciples, save John, went into hiding. Just when Jesus needed their help, they failed him. That is why despite the news from reliable witnesses that he has risen and is alive, they obstinately refused to believe. One reason for this must be fear. They were afraid to face Jesus because of what they had done to him. They thought he would surely condemn them for their infidelity. Now, Jesus appeared to them for the first time. He stood in their midst and the first words he uttered were: “Peace be with you!” These were spoken so gently and so warmly as if telling them, “I know how you feel. I understand your situation. I forgive you. Do not be afraid. All is well.” Those were like the words of a mother tenderly consoling a weeping and terrified child. There was no trace of bitterness, anger and resentment towards his unfaithful disciples, but only warmth of love and forgiveness.
Today, let us rejoice with the whole Church: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!” “Let us give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!”
This second Sunday of Easter is the celebration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that "throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come." Let us, therefore, celebrate the mercy of God for us. Like the disciples of Jesus, we, too, have been unfaithful to Him. We have turned our backs on Him and have failed Him so many times. But Jesus does not condemn us, nor is He angry with us. It is because He is the God of mercy. Mercy is the word for generous love towards sinners.
St. Thomas Aquinas said: “Mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.” When we are in sin, we lose the friendship of God and the life of divine grace within. Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from me you can do nothing.” Practically we become nothing; we are spiritually dead. But in His mercy, God brings us back into being, and restores us to new life with Him. How does God do this? In the Gospel this Sunday, it says: “Jesus breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”
This text is generally considered as the scriptural basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation – the great fountain of God’s mercy within the Church. God’s mercy and forgiveness are being offered to us in the sacrament of Confession.
A priest was hearing confessions one afternoon. Somebody walks into the confessional box, reeking with alcohol. The man is obviously drunk. The priest waits but the man says nothing. So he coughs and clears his throat to attract attention, but still the man says nothing. The priest then knocks loudly on the wall to get the man to talk. Finally, the drunk speaks: "Pal, don’t disturb me! There's no toilet paper in this one either." Nowadays, many Catholics do not anymore appreciate the value of the sacrament of Confession, and therefore do not avail of it for years and even decades. For most of them, it is just a seasonal sacrament – an annual obligation, at best. That is not correct. We need God’s mercy and forgiveness at every moment of our lives.
This is the message that needs to be proclaimed with clear conviction and urgency. In a world where people are losing the sense of sin, where the value and sacredness of human life is not anymore acknowledged, where having more of material things is the benchmark of success, and when people have become self-sufficient and proud, the message should be loud and clear: we need God’s mercy and His grace to reform our lives and walk along the way of conversion and salvation.
And how wonderful it is to realize that God looks at us with love and mercy! St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was once confronted with a man who said: “I don’t believe in God!” Padre Pio just smiled and said: “But God believes in you!” This reminds me of a story about a boy trapped inside the second floor of their burning house. His father could not get in anymore. There was no way out but through the window. The father urged the boy: “Jump, son! I am down here. I will catch you.” But the boy said: “Dad, I’m afraid! Where are you? I cannot see you.” But the father shouted back, “Don’t worry, son! You can’t see me, but I see you. Just jump, and I will catch you!”
Do not worry that we cannot find God; He finds us. Do not be afraid that we cannot see God; He sees us all the time. Do not be sad that we cannot love God enough; He loves us unconditionally with a heart so full of mercy and tenderness.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us rejoice and be glad in this thought: God loves me unconditionally. I am special and precious in His eyes. He looks at me with the eyes of mercy and love. This is expressed beautifully in a love song by Michael Johnson entitled, “The Love She Found in Me”: “Give her thorns and she’ll find roses; give her sand and she’ll find the sea; give her rain and she’ll find rainbows; just see the love she’s found in me.”
That is the way God looks at us. Indeed, He is absolutely the greatest lover. But He cannot force His love upon us. He patiently waits for our return into His loving arms. When will we go back to Confession in order to avail of His mercy and forgiveness?
And if God is merciful to us, we should also be merciful towards one another. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Imagine a world where people treat each other the way God treats us. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way heaven begins here on earth!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422