April 23, 2017

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), April 23, 2017, Year A

Jesus with St. Thomas in the Upper Room
Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

(Click here for today’s readings)

Don’t you hate ultimatums? Most of us have encountered (and maybe issued) them at one time or another. They usually begin with “unless” or “if” and threaten dire consequences if one’s expectations or demands are not met.

Thomas issued an ultimatum, inflexible conditions that had to be met in order for him to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to the other Apostles. It would be interesting to speculate as to why Thomas refused to believe—interesting but pointless.

Ultimatums generate frustration. Usually people throw up their hands and get angry. The inclination is to say, “Fine! Have it your way!” and then sit smug and wait for the inevitable comeuppance.

Jesus did not take that attitude. On the contrary, he accepted Thomas as he was, and accommodated his weak faith. He gave a very gentle reproof, to the effect that it would have been better, after all, if Thomas had believed without seeing.

This was a lesson that Thomas surely never forgot. Actually there were two lessons: one about faith, one about mercy.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Blessed, of course, in their faith and in the salvation that it brings. But blessed also in the transformation that takes place as a result. On April 30, 2000, when Pope John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday, he said: “To the extent that humanity penetrates the mystery of [God’s] merciful gaze, it will seem possible to fulfill the ideal we heard in today's first reading: ‘The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather everything was held in common’ (Acts 4: 32). Here mercy gave form to human relations and community life; it constituted the basis for the sharing of goods.”

This blessedness is by no means contradicted by the reading from St. Peter, who speaks, on the one hand, of faith’s being tested by suffering and, on the other hand, of suffering endured with indescribable joy! And this, because God “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope.”

At every Mass we pray, “Lord, have mercy.”  We ask the Lord to give us his mercy, in two ways:

First, we ask him: “Take pity on us, show us your mercy.” Mercy is one of those Bible words that can be translated in a great variety of ways. Depending on the context and the translator, the same word for mercy in the opening verses of Psalm 118 can be rendered as goodness, kindness, love, faithful love, steadfast love, pity, loving-kindness, favor.

At the same time we are asking the Lord, “Put your mercy in us.” We want him to make us merciful with his mercy, his goodness, kindness, love, faithful love, steadfast love, pity, loving-kindness, favor.

We might even think of it as a single word, something like the made-up word in Mary Poppins: “supercalifragilisticexpialadocious.” The difference is that the Mary Poppins word is designed as “"something to say when you have nothing to say," while this “mercy word,” actually means something—something wonderful and beautiful, that goes on and on, endlessly coming from the Lord.

To paraphrase our Reponsorial Psalm, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercygoodnesskindnesslovefaithfullovesteadfastlovepity loving kindnessfavor endures forever.

All this endures forever. That is our comfort. That is why can say, confidently and endlessly, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

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