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March 11March 11
The Apostles were failures.
That statement may be hard to fathom, but Pope Francis said as much during an April 24 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday.
Peter denied Jesus three times. Judas Iscariot betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver, which was among the actions leading to our Savior’s crucifixion. And the Apostles hid and locked themselves behind closed doors after his death for fear of the Jews.
They “were … closed in on themselves, burdened by a sense of failure,” the pope said.
“They were disciples who had abandoned their master; at the moment of his arrest, they had run away,” the Holy Father noted. “They had good reason to feel not only afraid, but useless; they had failed.”
And yet, when Jesus appears to them after his resurrection, his first words to his Apostles are, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).
Christ offers them a greeting of joy, forgiveness and comfort. Those are three key aspects of God’s mercy toward each of us, Pope Francis added. And it is a mercy we should freely welcome.
If we reflect on our daily lives, we certainly see times when we have failed others. It could be in our vocations as a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a co-worker, or with any other person—even a stranger—who crosses our path. It could be abandoning our faith when times get tough, looking for earthly solutions and not allowing God to be part of our response. If most of us are honest with ourselves, there are more things we can cite that lead to us falling into sin on a regular basis.
Like the first Apostles, we, too, are offered that gift of forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. The question we need to pose to ourselves is: How often do we avail ourselves of this wonderful gift of our faith? Once a month? Once a year? When times really get tough, and we understand we need God’s mercy and forgiveness?
Upon appearing to his first disciples after his resurrection, Jesus did not reproach them, Pope Francis noted, but instead showed them kindness which “revives them, fills their hearts with the peace they had lost and makes them new persons, purified by a forgiveness that is utterly unmerited.”
We, too, feel that joy after confessing our sins to a priest, who through his ministry, offers those same, exact words—“Peace be with you”—which bring us consolation and God’s pardon and peace. It is an unmatched channel of mercy that provides one of the most treasured gifts of our faith.
“The joy God gives is indeed born of forgiveness. It bestows peace. It is a joy that raises us up without humiliating us,” Pope Francis said.
Peace is something that is sorely lacking in many parts of our world. In our lives of faith, we must remember our neighbors who are suffering in the midst of serious crises and difficulties. One only need to look at the ongoing unjust and cruel invasion by Russia on Ukraine to witness an example where we can be balms of mercy to those in need.
Who else needs our prayers and unwavering support? It could be a family quietly fighting economic challenges, or a loved one bravely tackling a life-threatening illness with an admirable dignity. Our faith reminds us we are to see Christ in them and be Christ to them. And to be channels of mercy and love as well.
“We think that we are experiencing unbearable pain and situations of suffering, and we suddenly discover that others around us are silently enduring even worse things,” the pope said.
We all have experienced or will experience moments of crisis in our faith, the Holy Father reminded us.
Those crises could lead us to falling into sin, but we must remember Christ is there for us, offering joy, forgiveness and comfort.
Please Lord, let us never forget the unmatched ocean of mercy available to us through an all-loving God. And whenever possible, let us be channels of mercy and love to our brothers and sisters in need.