Divine Mercy Sunday

2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday: Gospel – John 20:19-31

This Gospel passage featuring “doubting Thomas” is appropriate for Divine Mercy Sunday.

When revealing the unfathomable depths of His mercy to St Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, Jesus emphasized how much He longs for us to trust Him, and how our lack of trust grieves Him.

Just as Jesus showed His wounds to Thomas as proof of His resurrection, so does He remind us of His wounds as a pledge of His mercy:

Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds.

— Diary of St Faustina, paragraph 379.

Thus Jesus implores us to entrust ourselves to His merciful Heart, especially today, Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was not established because of a personal inspiration on the part of St John Paul II, nor is it just a matter of one’s own spiritual tastes.

Jesus Himself is the Author of Divine Mercy Sunday. In His revelations to St Faustina, the Lord requested that the second Sunday of Easter be dedicated as the Feast of Divine Mercy:

I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.

The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flows are opened.

Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity (699).

Just as He ordered the Feast, so did Jesus call for the Divine Mercy image to be painted, depicting the rays of mercy streaming from His Heart:

The two rays denote Blood and Water…These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross (299).

Jesus commissioned St. Faustina to spread the Divine Mercy devotion throughout the world, asking us to confide in His infinite love for us:

I came down from heaven out of love for you, I lived for you, I died for you, and I created the heavens for you (853).

Love has brought Me here, and love keeps Me here (576).

I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy (367a).

Question for reflection: When has the Lord in His mercy helped me through a struggle of faith?

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The Resurrection is not ‘just some miracle from the past’

Easter Sunday: Gospel – Luke 24:1-12 (Vigil); John 20:1-9

“If it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us?”

With this pointed question, Benedict XVI called us to deepen our understanding of the Resurrection of the Lord – and what it means for us, our lives, and our eternal destiny.

Christ is truly risen in the flesh, not to resume earthly life as we know it, but to take up a transcendent life in His glorified Body:

If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest ‘mutation,’ absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history…

The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which…ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us…

We have been caught up into this supernatural reality through Baptism. Incorporated into Christ, each baptized person is capable of “finding oneself within the vastness of God,” sharing in the intimacy of God’s own life:

The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced.

To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil.

The Resurrection is not a thing of the past; the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that He holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak.

Easter Vigil Homily of April 15, 2006.

Question for reflection: How am I changed by encountering the Risen Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Easter Sunday

The Resurrection of the Lord: Gospel – Mark 16:1-7; John 20:1-9; or Luke 24:13-35

The Resurrection is a literal truth, a real historical event, of Christ being raised from the dead.

It cannot be dismissed as merely a nice metaphor for how the disciples were inspired to carry on after Jesus’ death, or a pious myth to recover from the horror of the Crucifixion (Catechism paragraphs 639-44). Such a dismissal doesn’t comport with the facts that the disciples were terrified, in hiding, crushed that their Messianic hope had apparently failed in the most gruesome way under Roman torture.

The transformation of the apostles – from this demoralized and cowardly crew, into fearless missionaries and ultimately martyrs – is inexplicable in purely human terms.

As Benedict XVI observes, their preaching “would be unthinkable unless the witnesses had experienced a real encounter” with the risen Christ (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, p. 275).

Nor was the Lord just brought back to our ordinary human life, in the way that He had raised others during His ministry.

“Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life” that lies beyond our earthly existence (ibid., p. 244). In truth, His Resurrection marks a “leap” into a new order of being, “opening up a dimension that affects us all…a new space of being in union with God” (p. 274).

“It is a historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it” (p. 273).

Question for reflection: How does the radical reality of the Resurrection transform my life?

Engaging the Gospel – Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent: Gospel – Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration

Last Sunday, we toiled along with Jesus undergoing temptation in the desert; in this Sunday’s Gospel, we are uplifted by His dazzling Transfiguration.

Pope Benedict XVI has commented on this abrupt transition from the depths to the heights:

Considered together, these episodes anticipate the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ struggle with the tempter preludes the great final duel of the Passion, while the light of his transfigured Body anticipates the glory of the Resurrection.

On the one hand, we see Jesus, fully man, sharing with us even temptation; on the other, we contemplate him as the Son of God who divinizes our humanity.

Thus, we could say that these two Sundays serve as pillars on which to build the entire structure of Lent until Easter, and indeed, the entire structure of Christian life, which consists essentially in paschal dynamism: from death to life.

Angelus of February 17, 2008.

Blessed John Paul II commented on another kind of dynamism inherent in this passage – though we experience joy on the mountaintop, and glimpse our future glory in the radiant Christ, we don’t have the luxury of staying there:

We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries.

But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith.

On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.

Homily of August 6, 1999.

Question: When have I had a “mountaintop experience” in my spiritual life?

Keep Holy the Lord’s Day

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2168-95:

  • If we love God above all, and revere His holy name, then we will desire to give Him the public worship He deserves; this is the basis of the Third Commandment, that we are to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
  • The sabbath is vital to the divine revelation given to the people of Israel: the seventh day of the week was consecrated to God, in commemoration of His “rest” after the work of creation, His saving action of liberating them from slavery in Egypt, and their intimate covenant relationship with Him.
  • In keeping with the pattern throughout the Old Testament, the sabbath was a preparation for the coming of Christ; Jesus emphasized its true meaning by performing miraculous healings on the sabbath, freeing people from the shackles of sin and disease.
  • Through His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, Christ ushers in a new creation while completing His work of redemption; because both creation and redemption are intrinsically related to the sabbath, the observance of the sabbath was transferred to Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” at the dawn of the Church.
  • As the New Testament illustrates, the first Christians were already gathering on the first day of the week for the breaking of the bread; ever since then, for 2,000 years, the Sunday Eucharist has been “at the heart of the Church’s life.”
  • When we assemble in the same way with our parish family to celebrate the Lord’s Day, we testify that we belong to the Church that transcends time and space; like our forebears, we are nourished with the Word of God in Scripture and in sacrament, as we receive the Word made flesh, the Lord, in the Eucharist.
  • This worship is so crucial to our spiritual health, and our right relationship with God, that it is a grave obligation; if we deliberately fail to attend Mass on Sundays or other holy days, without a serious reason (such as illness), we commit a mortal sin and must seek the sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • God also gives us this commandment for the sake of our physical and emotional well-being; He commands us to rest from our usual daily grind of work and toil, reclaim our freedom from material preoccupations, and savor a foretaste of our eternal rest with God.
  • By being faithful to the Sunday rest from work, we can relax with family and friends, enjoy healthy recreations, set aside more quiet time for reflection, and reach out in charity to others in need.
  • Unfortunately, many have to work on Sundays because of the nature of their employment; while this is unavoidable in certain instances, employers and customers should not place excessive or unnecessary burdens on workers, and those who do work should still carve out time to keep the Lord’s Day holy.

Live Your Faith

Whenever we deliberately skip Mass on a Sunday or other holy day, just because we didn’t bother to go, we are telling God, “I’ve got something better to do.”

But nothing in the entire cosmos is more important than thanking God for loving me personally before time began; for creating me; for redeeming me; for forgiving me; for enlightening me with the fullness of His truth in the Catholic Church; for giving me His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist; for desiring me to spend eternal life in unimaginable happiness with Him.

Only in the Mass can we render proper thanks and praise, because it is the very sacrifice of Christ to the Father.

Resurrection of the Lord

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 638-58:

  • The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the fundamental fact of Christianity: if Jesus had not actually risen, our faith would have been senseless.
  • The Resurrection is a real historical event: Jesus’ body and soul, which had been separated at the point of His death, were reunited, and He rose from the tomb.
  • The risen Christ appeared, not as a ghost, but as true flesh and blood to His amazed disciples on a number of occasions; these events are recounted in the New Testament, which was written within living memory of the participants.
  • A powerful motive for belief in the Resurrection is the dramatic change it effected in the Apostles: traumatized by the Crucifixion, they were suddenly transformed into bold evangelists who were martyred for their witness to Christ.
  • The Apostles’ behavior is inexplicable in purely human terms; these initially terrified men would not have suffered martyrdom for a fabricated story; only authentic encounters with the Risen Lord can explain their testimony.
  • Indeed, the Apostles at first scoffed at the women who told them of the Resurrection; even when Christ appeared to them, they had to be convinced that He was physically alive in the body – like hard-headed realists, not mythmakers.
  • A particularly striking case in point is “Doubting Thomas,” who had to see and touch the Lord’s wounds in order to believe the truth.
  • Yet the Resurrected Christ did not simply return to normal earthly existence, like Lazarus or the others He had raised; rather, Christ’s body was now glorified, and entered into another dimension of life not limited by space and time.
  • The Resurrection fulfills the prophecies uttered in the Old Testament and by Jesus Himself, confirming all of His works and teachings as the Son of God.
  • The Resurrection is integral to the Paschal mystery, Christ’s Passover; by His death, He liberates us from sin, and by rising, He opens a way for us to new life; we celebrate the triumph of His Resurrection in a heightened way at Easter.

Live Your Faith

We might become desensitized to this “crowning truth of our faith” because we are so accustomed to it, but the power of the Resurrection should continue to astound us.

Jesus has conquered death and given us a path to eternal life, a new life that begins right here and now through His grace.

Do our lives reflect this supernatural reality, or are we just going through the motions as if the Resurrection never happened?