Second Sunday of Easter – Year B

Today is the second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. This was designated by St. John Paul II not long before he died. As a young man Karol Wojtyla cultivated a strong devotion to Sr. Faustina Kowalski, a young nun who died in Krakow in 1938. Sr. Faustina was gifted with extraordinary experiences of the Lord Jesus. We had the privilege on our parish – Borris – pilgrimage in 2007 of visiting the convent where Sr. Faustina was, as a young nun and we visited her tomb as well. The most famous of the visions she had was the Lord revealing his most Sacred Heart from which radiated rays of light, both red and white. She saw this as a radiant force of Divine Mercy. It struck the young Karol Wojtyla that Sr. Faustina died on the eve of Poland’s crucifixion at the hands of the Nazis who invaded Poland on the 1st of September 1939, a year after she died and then the ongoing crucifixion of the Polish People at the hands of the communists. John Paul II recognized the 20th century as the cruelest century in history, the century that was most marked by violence, genocide, by deep hatred and the one that was most in need of Divine Mercy. Therefore, he saw in the visions of Sr. Faustina that God wanted to bestow on the 20th century his Divine Mercy. St. John Paul canonized her shortly before he died. Millions of people all over the world today pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. What do we mean when we say mercy? Mercy is an English version of the word misericordia which means the suffering of the heart. Mercy is compassion, to suffer with the people in their suffering. Mercy is the characteristic of God because God is love. Pope Francis speaks a lot about this. The best analogy we could use is considering a mother’s love for her children, a mother could never become indifferent to her children, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah: even if she did, I will never forget you. In the second reading of our mass today, St. John stresses this point. God is love. The greatest manifestation of mercy is the forgiveness of sins. In our gospel today, which is taken from the 20th chapter of St. John, we have the apostles assembled in the upper room, they had abandoned Jesus, and they were probably ashamed, afraid. Jesus appears among them, they might have thought that this is some sort of punishment or revenge, his first word is: Shalom – Peace. He shows them his hands and his side to remind them of what the world did to him. He follows this with his mercy “Receive the Holy…” Jesus’ mercy is communicated to his disciples and they in turn must communicate it to the entire world. Confession is the privileged vehicle for divine mercy. When G. K Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic; his reply was to have his sins forgiven. This sacrament has fallen into disuse, and this is probably one of the great tragedies of the post conciliar period in the church. Pope Francis has stressed this on many occasions both hearing confessions and then going to confession. Many of you, have probably seen the clip of him leaving a precession in St. Peters Basilica and going over to a confession box to make his confession. He wanted to receive confession as the privileged vehicle of divine mercy. We are called also to bring this shalom, this peace to a world that is anxiously seeking inner peace.  We can bring this peace and this love to members of our own family, maybe an elderly parent, a brother or sister who lives alone; we can bring peace and healing to those who are sick, depressed, or passing through tough times. As Jesus bequeathed his peace on the apostles; he transmits this same peace, shalom to each one of us and commissions us to bring it to the world.