April 9, 2021

Divine Mercy Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionAs almost always in the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles furnishes the Liturgy of the Word with its first reading for Mass this weekend.

Scholars believe that Acts is the work of the Evangelist who wrote St. Luke’s Gospel. Acts, therefore, may properly be seen as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel, which closes with the ascension of Jesus. Acts then begins at this point.

As it progresses, Acts traces for some years the development of the infant Church, describing the plight of its first members. In so doing, it provides a fascinating insight into the formation of the Church’s structure, as well as a powerful lesson in the basic beliefs that so compelled absolute loyalty and devotion from the early Christians, whom Acts praises as great examples of unqualified faith, especially in the face of human ignorance and treachery.

In this weekend’s reading, Acts presents the first members of the Church as being “of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32). Love for and adherence to the Lord were central to their lives.

The Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The Lord’s special followers and students, whom Jesus commissioned to continue the work of salvation, had literally seen the risen Lord. The first Christians revered the Apostles.

Love for others, in the model of Jesus, was more than a platitude or vague ideal. The early Christians assisted the poor. They sold their property and donated the proceeds to this effort.

St. John’s First Epistle supplies the second reading, defining what being a Christian means.

All believers must give themselves fully in love to God through trust and faith in Jesus. Because of this commitment and because of the Lord’s redeeming acts, each Christian is a child of God. This term means much more than merely earthly creation. It means eternal life.

Baptism in water symbolizes and makes real this absolute commitment.

The Gospel reading for this weekend is from St. John’s Gospel. It is a resurrection narrative, telling a story with which most Christians are quite familiar. Recall the dismay among the followers of Jesus when they found the empty tomb. Where had the body of the Lord been taken?

This reading answers the question. The body of the Lord has been taken nowhere. Jesus lives! He is risen! The encounter with the doubting, demanding Thomas affirms this fact.

Resurrection from the dead is stunning in itself, but Jesus further acts as God by conferring the very power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. He grants them the authority of forgiving sins, a divine privilege as sins affront God. He sends them to the four corners of the world to bring redemption to all humanity.

Passing through locked doors as if they were thin air, Jesus greeted the Apostles with “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). Jesus makes clear that peace only is in God. The living Lord is the sole source of peace.

Reflection

This weekend, the Church calls its people to rejoice in God’s mercy. It defines mercy. God has redeemed us. Further, it recalls the great compassion and charity of the first Christians. They imitated Jesus, the Son of God. God is love.

When we observe Divine Mercy Sunday, we remember that, in and through Jesus, the risen Son of God, divine mercy is with us. The memory, however, is dynamic. It summons us to follow the Lord’s example in our attitude toward others, our active compassion for one and all.

Finally, we are not alone. The Lord left us the Apostles. With their successors in the bishops of the Church as our guides and the bearers of divine mercy, literally, we find forgiveness and the light to see the way to follow Jesus. †

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