April 9, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Christ’s death, resurrection, ultimate expressions of Divine Mercy

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen as he promised. Alleluia!

The holy season of Easter encourages us to place our hope in the risen Lord. He is with us even in the most difficult circumstances as the Lord of life who has conquered sin and death in order to set us free. His death and resurrection are the ultimate expressions of Divine Mercy. Christ died, and rose again, to forgive us and to save us from our sins.

The Second Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate this weekend, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Mercy is a favorite theme of Pope Francis—and it was also emphasized by his predecessors, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The fact that God is merciful, as well as just, means that we who are sinners have hope. As we pray in Psalm 130, “If you take account of our sins, Lord, who would survive? But with you there is mercy and fullness of redemption” (Ps 130:3-4).

Mercy is made possible by great love. It is because God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to give his life for us. We are forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Christ. We are liberated from slavery to sin and death because of the inexhaustible love of our triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) whose mercy is deeper than the ocean and whose forgiveness stretches further than the stars in the heavens.

Mercy is a gift that must be shared. As we see in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4:32-35), the first Christians responded to the mercy shown them by sharing generously with each other. “With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need” (Acts 4:33-35).

Unity among us requires mercy—seeking forgiveness of our sins as well as forgiveness of the sins committed against us. This is the only way to achieve lasting peace. In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, our risen Lord makes the connection between forgiveness and peace when he says:

“ ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’ ” (Jn 20:21-23).

Unless we are merciful toward others—even our enemies—we will be constantly consumed by resentment and anger, and we will not know peace. This is true for both individuals and for nations. Unless we can forgive those with whom we disagree (even dislike intensely), we cannot have unity or peace. This is why Jesus gave his Apostles the authority to forgive sins in his name. Because Christ’s resurrection has overcome the power of evil, we are free to cast off our fears and extend to others the peace that can only come through forgiveness of past wrongs.

In his historic visit to Iraq last month, Pope Francis forcefully reminded us that peace can never come through hostility and violence—especially in the name of religion. It can only come through forgiveness and the acknowledgment in love that we are all sisters and brothers made in the image and likeness of God, the face of mercy.

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. His mercy endures forever” (Ps 118:22). Let’s build a better world on the foundation of Christ whose love and mercy last forever. Let’s joyfully celebrate this Easter season confident that our Father will be merciful to us as we forgive those who sin against us.

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), a Polish sister of Our Lady of Mercy whose mystical visions of Jesus inspired the Divine Mercy devotion, prayed: “O my Jesus, despite the deep night that is all around me and the dark clouds which hide the horizon, I know that the sun never goes out. O Lord, though I cannot comprehend you and do not understand your ways, I nonetheless trust in your mercy.”

Divine Mercy overcomes all darkness. It allows the light of God’s grace to penetrate even the most hidden and shameful places in our hearts and in the world we live in.

With St. Faustina, and all the saints, let’s proclaim this fundamental truth: “Heaven and Earth may change, but God’s mercy will never be exhausted.” †

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