April 17, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Compassionate Jesus is the face of God’s mercy

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time” (1 Pt 1:3-5).

Happy Easter! After a long Lent, the sun is once again shining, and we are blessed with Easter joy!

The Second Sunday of Easter is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. This is most appropriate because Easter celebrates the greatest act of divine mercy in human history. Our generous and merciful God has redeemed us by an extraordinary act of humility and self-sacrifice. By his wounds, we are healed. By his extreme suffering and his cruel death, all our sins are forgiven. By his glorious resurrection, we have been rescued and set free.

In the second reading for Divine Mercy Sunday (1 Pt 1:3-9), St. Peter tells us that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has given us “a new birth to a living hope” (1 Pt 1:3). Not only that, St. Peter tells us that we will receive “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pt 1:4). This is the unfathomable mercy of God—not only to forgive our sins, but to grant us a reward “kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time” (1 Pt 1:4-5).

No wonder we shout for joy and sing “Alleluia” during this season of rejoicing. No wonder we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday with such heartfelt gratitude and joy!

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Jn 20:19-31) tells us that Jesus not only forgave our sins, but he granted the power of forgiveness to his disciples and asked that they continue to share it with all who seek God’s mercy. “Mercy toward a human life in a state of need is the true face of love,” Pope Francis has said, explaining that it is by loving another that one becomes a true disciple of Jesus and that the face of the Father is revealed. “Jesus is the Face of Mercy, the Face of the Father,” the pope tells us. When we forgive someone who has offended us, we become the face of mercy in that situation. When we show genuine compassion to someone in need, we share with them the love that comes from our merciful Father in heaven.  

Sunday’s Gospel tells the familiar story of the “doubting Thomas.” According to St. John:  

“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, 
was not with them when Jesus came. 
So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ 
But he said to them, 
‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands 
and put my finger into the nail marks 
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ ” (Jn 20:24-25).

Many of us can understand Thomas’ position. We are practical people and, as the saying goes, “seeing is believing.” But faith in Jesus requires much more than trusting the evidence of our senses. It demands that we encounter the risen Lord as he appears to us in new and different ways—in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in the Scriptures, in communion with and service to others (especially “the least of these,” our brothers and sisters).

Jesus, who is the face of mercy, has compassion on his unbelieving disciple. He shows Thomas his wounds saying: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20:27). As with Thomas and the other disciples, Jesus goes out of his way to be present to us, to greet us warmly with “Peace be with you,” and to invite us to believe in him even if we have not seen him with our own eyes.

God’s mercy always gives us a second chance to encounter Jesus and to believe in him. No matter how skeptical or doubtful we may be; no matter how far we have strayed from the experience of communion with Christ in and through his Church; and no matter how seriously we have sinned, Jesus always reaches out to us with open arms. He embraces us and invites us to experience his friendship and his forgiveness.

We’re right to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday during the Easter season. Let’s rejoice in God’s mercy this Easter by encountering Jesus in the holy Eucharist, in his sacred word and in our love for one another. † 

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