Readings: Acts 4:32-35, Ps. 118:2-4,15-18,22-24, 1 John 5:1-6, John 20:19-31

“He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:22-23)

Today, exactly eight days after Easter Sunday, is Divine Mercy Sunday. Why do we call it “Divine Mercy Sunday?” Firstly, today is Divine Mercy Sunday because, on this day, we remember how Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples eight days after His resurrection to establish the Sacrament of Divine Mercy when He said to the disciples: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Secondly, on this day, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy in keeping with Jesus’ instructions for St. Maria Faustina. What is Divine Mercy? How did Jesus show us mercy? Is there a limit to what God can forgive? How can Divine Mercy be expressed among Christians today? These questions bring us to our lessons for today:

1. His Mercy Endures Forever.
As our Psalmist today sings, we must “Praise God, for He is good and His mercies endure forever.” In the opening prayer of today’s Mass, we praised God for giving us the grace to understand the nature of the FONT in which we have been washed, the SPIRIT in which we have been reborn and the BLOOD through which we have been redeemed. When Jesus was pierced on the cross, blood and water flowed from his side – this is the very image of the Divine Mercy. Whenever you gaze at this picture, remember Jesus on the Cross offering you unlimited pardon and mercy.

Archbishop Akubeze would say that we sometimes assume we can limit God’s forgiveness by refusing to go to confession. We assume that we take God’s mercy for granted through frequent confessions. Dear friends, there is no limit to God's forgiveness. “No matter what your past has been, you begin anew.” God’s mercy endures forever. Despite all that was done to Jesus, He did not even wait to die before forgiving his enemies. Right on the cross, Jesus said: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Even though His disciples fled from him at his hour of trial, Jesus appeared to them, and the first thing He says is: “Peace be with you.”

2. Mercy is the Cure for Restlessness.
Seeing how troubled, restless and scared the disciples were, Jesus said to them twice: “Peace be with you”. In other words, “I forgive you” and “I forgive you completely.” We cannot wish peace for those who have hurt us without forgiving them. On the other hand, we cannot have peace if we fail to forgive. Are you troubled within yourself and lacking peace of mind? Why not forgive and forget the offences of those who have hurt you today?

3. In Confession, It is God Who Forgives Sins.
Just after declaring peace upon the disciples, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then, He gave them the power to absolve or retain sins. Just as God breathed on Adam at creation, giving him life, Jesus breathed on the disciples, giving them extraordinary power to do something only God can do. At confession, the priest can only absolve us of our sins through the power of the Holy Spirit, which Christ breathed on his disciples on this occasion.

4. The Secret of Christian Unity is Mercy and Forgiveness.
In our first reading, we are told that the whole group of those who believed were of “one heart and soul”. No needy person was among them because no one claimed ownership of their possessions. Those with lands or houses sold them, and the proceeds were distributed to each person according to their needs. When we compare this gathering of believers to our churches today, we cannot but bow our heads in shame. Everywhere you turn today, you find division, quarrelling and bitterness. You would agree that as long as two humans live together, there is bound to be friction. Even some siblings cannot see eye to eye.

How were the early Christians able to live in one heart and soul? The answer is mercy (willingness to sacrifice oneself for the good of others) and forgiveness (letting go of wrongs). These are two qualities that any Christian must have. Otherwise, they are not different from unbelievers. Mercy is stepping into the shoes of others, being able to feel their predicament and coming to their help. The early believers could live in peace because they practised compassion for one another. Share the little you have. Remember: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.” (Matthew 25:40).

The second aspect of mercy is Forgiveness. It shows kindness to your enemies even though they don’t deserve it. If you were in the shoes of Jesus, what would you have done? How did you treat those who hurt you in the past? If you behaved like Christ, you are truly a Christian, not a churchgoer. According to Bishop Godfrey Onah, “If our enemies succeed in making us hate them, then they have conquered us completely. Christianity without love, including the love of the enemy, is empty. A Christian without that love might as well be of any other religion.”

5. Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen And Yet Believe.
Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared, and when he was told, he said: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). The fact is that most of us Christians are just like Thomas. We have told ourselves that unless we see miracles happening (unless we see and touch Jesus), we will not believe. Many have completely turned their backs on God because they felt disappointed, like the two disciples who turned their backs on Jerusalem and were heading to Emmaus.

Just as Jesus appeared again and showed Himself to Thomas, Jesus has never stopped showing Himself to us through the ordinary events of our lives, which we often take for granted. If only we learn to count our blessings rather than constantly complaining, we would see that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, melt my heart and teach me to be merciful. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter). Bible Study: Acts 4:32-35, Ps. 118:2-4,15-18,22-24, 1 John 5:1-6, John 20:19-31).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu