Divine Mercy Sunday (A)                                                             Jn 20:19-31

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. I would like to take you through a series of stories to help explain the Mercy of Jesus — Once Napoleon was moved by a mother's plea for a pardon for her son. However, the emperor said it was his second offense and therefore, justice demanded death. "I do not ask for justice," cried the mother, "I plead for mercy." "But," said the emperor, "he does not deserve mercy." "Your highness," cried the mother, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." The compassion and clarity of the mother's logic prompted Napoleon to respond, "Well, then, I will have mercy." — so, Mercy is the judgment we do not deserve.

In 1984, Time magazine ran a cover photograph that startled the world. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The younger man wore a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man wore a white robe with a white skull cap on his head. They sat facing each other, up close and personal. They spoke quietly. The young man was Mehmet ali-Agca, the pope’s attempted assassin; the other man was Pope St. John Paul II. The pope held the hand that held the gun whose bullet tore into his body. Pope St. John Paul wanted this meeting to be seen around the world, a world filled with nuclear arsenals and unforgiving hatreds. This was a living icon of mercy. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. This pope, this saint, initiated this feast of Divine Mercy, which we celebrate today.

In the year 2006, an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He lined up 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died. The families came back later and carried their slain children home. In each home they emptied a room of all furniture except a table and chairs. They sat and mourned their beloved children. Later they all walked to the home of the man who killed their loved ones. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. These Christians buried their revenge before they buried their children. These Amish people teach us about mercy.

What then is divine mercy? What can it do for us? Why did Jesus come to sister Faustina almost 2000 years after his resurrection to remind us of his great unfathomable mercy? Possibly it was because he knew what the 20th century would bring to the world. Because the world had lost sight of that divine virtue and had despaired of its presence and power.

There once was a man, a wild, unkempt man, who lived in unimaginable bondage. Everyone around the lake had heard of him. He lived among the tombs in the cemetery. Once the men from the village had held him down and chained him up but he broke the chains and some of them still hung off of him. They tried to shackle his ankles but he broke those also. It is most likely that all of Jesus’ friends told him to stay away from this man. But Jesus headed for that shore filled with compassion. As Jesus came upon him, the man was so tormented he couldn’t possibly ask for help; the demons in his body would not allow him to look in the eyes of Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, the demons fled, and the man was released. When the man calmed down Jesus dressed him in clean clothes and talked with him. — Divine mercy brings freedom. Freedom from addiction, freedom from whatever demons may haunt us.

There was a man Zacchaeus, by name, who was an extortionist, a cheat and a tax collector i.e. one who worked for the Roman occupation forces, a smarmy sort of fellow. Yet when he heard that Jesus would be coming by, he was determined to see him, due to his reputation. Being a short little guy he climbed a tree so that he could see over the crowd. Surprisingly Jesus called to him and then went to his house to share dinner with him. Zacchaeus, being in the presence of Jesus, converted on the spot, gave back all the money he extorted and gave part of his personal wealth to the poor. — Divine mercy transforms lives.

There was another time Jesus was leaving Jericho, and there was a blind man sitting on the roadside. The crowds following Jesus made quite a ruckus as they passed by. The man asked who was passing? They told them Jesus of Nazareth. So he immediately cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The people told him to be quiet, shoving him to the back of the crowd. So he shouted all the louder. Soon he was screaming as loud as he could. He believed in God’s mercy and he knew how much he needed it. — I ask you my friends: could we profess our faith with that kind of zeal, can we speak out, when people are telling us to be quiet, when others are saying they don’t want to hear it? — Again, full of love, Jesus stopped and called him forward touched his eyes and restored his sight. — Divine mercy brings healing. It can bring us physical healing, mental healing, and especially spiritual healing, whatever we might need for healing. Jesus will give what is good for us.

Then we hear in the gospel that Thomas, the apostle, doubts his faith in Jesus. The same Thomas that was willing to go and die with Jesus when he said he was going back to Bethany. What happened? Why did Thomas doubt? Well if we look closely at the scriptures we see that he separated himself from the community, from the Church. He was not there with the others after the resurrection or possibly even during the Passion; Thomas had panicked and ran away; his separation from the community caused his faith to fade, he began to doubt. This is a lesson for those who wander from the community or don’t consider Sunday Mass and activity in the community to be important.

Thomas asks to see the wounds of Jesus, because it is the wounds that now identify Jesus as whom he claims to be. In his great mercy Jesus shows Thomas his wounds and asks him to put his hand to his side. Yes, my friends, it is through his wounds that we recognize him. Thomas is confronted with those wounds and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI says about this moment: “He reacts with the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament.” — “My Lord and my God!” St. Augustine says, Thomas “saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed in the unseen.” — Divine mercy brings us to faith, it reconciles us with the community, Mercy forgives and forgets.

The Church celebrates God’s mercy always and ever through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament opens us to the mercy of Jesus. Be merciful as your Father is merciful is our Lord telling us to practice the spiritual, and corporal works of mercy. We must practice mercy in our daily lives in order to become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.

Let us pray:

Father, we are awed by your compassion and love for us. Your mercy has raised us up, cleansed us, and changed us.  Lord, we see and recognize you in this sacrament today. We embrace the mercy that you are pouring over us right now. Enfold us in your mercy and love.