April 22, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

The miracle of forgiveness is always available to us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).

This week, we are celebrating the greatest miracle story ever told. God Incarnate suffered and died for us, overcoming the horrors of death and bursting open the gates of hell.

By his resurrection from the dead, Christ assured us that no one who repents and seeks forgiveness will be denied the experience of everlasting joy. This Easter miracle was the supreme act of forgiveness. It is the Divine Mercy that we joyfully celebrate this weekend, the Second Sunday of Easter.

The Scripture readings for Divine Mercy Sunday speak of the many miracles, or signs, worked by Jesus, and by his disciples once the Lord ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to guide, encourage and support his followers. As we will read in the Acts of the Apostles:

“Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the Apostles. … Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured” (Acts 5:12, 15-16).

Several miracles are taking place here. The Apostles, who were so timid and uncertain that they fled from the scene of the Lord’s crucifixion, can now cure the sick and drive away “unclean spirits” in Jesus’ name. And Peter, who denied any knowledge of Jesus, but then repented and was forgiven, has only to cast his shadow on those who are ill to affect a miraculous cure. Surely these are indications that the Lord’s resurrection from the dead has changed everything for those who believe in him.

The second reading for Divine Mercy Sunday comes from the Book of Revelation (Rv 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19), which contains the mysterious vision entrusted to St. John the Apostle when he was an old man imprisoned on the island of Patmos.

John tells us that he was “caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rv 1:10) and in this state of ecstasy he heard behind him “a voice as loud as a trumpet” (Rv 9:10), which said: “Write on a scroll what you see” (Rv 9:11). What John saw was the Lord himself:

“When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards” (Rv 1:17-19).

We know that John faithfully carried out the Lord’s command. Through his letters, his Gospel and from the Book of Revelation, we have been given eyewitness accounts of the miracles God worked through his only begotten Son, and of the amazing signs and wonders performed by those who are entrusted with completing Christ’s mission on Earth.

In fact, we who are sinners are given the power to forgive others precisely so that we can be instruments of God’s healing and mercy in our world.

In Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 20:19–31), Jesus tells us explicitly, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23).

We who seek to follow Jesus as members of his Church must be angels of mercy. We must learn to set aside resentment and the desire for vengeance. We must not be judgmental people who look down on individuals or groups whom we consider to be unworthy.

Only by humbly acknowledging our own unworthiness, and by relying on the grace of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, can we perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that Christ asks us to do in his name.

St. John tells us that Jesus “did many other signs” (Jn 20:30) while he lived among us. We who seek to be faithful Christians (disciples who believe in Jesus even when we have not seen him with our own eyes) believe that Christ continues to work miracles of healing and hope through us.

We are the beneficiaries of the Divine Mercy. We have been forgiven and redeemed. Our challenge on this Divine Mercy Sunday is to open our hearts to the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to forgive others as we have been forgiven, so that we may have life in Jesus’ name. †

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