Sunday, April 5, 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday - April 12, 2015

First Reading Commentary
The opening verse in this Reading perhaps delineates the origin of monastic life. 

Saint John Chrysostom points out how happy society would be if it operated in this manner.  Those who had much would be able to share with those who had little or nothing. 

Material wealth supplies many of our physical needs but it can also enrich our spiritual lives if we realize that all we have belongs to God; and the reason we have it is because it has been entrusted to us by the Almighty.  Our Lord is very clear about this as He Himself says in Psalm 50: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, since the world and all it holds is Mine.” 

“Great favor was accorded them all” because those that were present possessed extraordinary graces and zeal.  As Christians, we bear “witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  We serve Him and love Him.  Charity should be at the heart of our love and service for we cannot serve and love Jesus if we ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters.     

Second Reading Commentary
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ,” the promised Messiah, the Redeemer of the world, is “begotten by God” and we are justified by becoming a child of God through the waters of baptism.  Other conditions for justification are a general belief of all that God has revealed and promised; hope, love, repentance and a sincere disposition to keep God’s holy law and commandments. 

“We love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments,for the love of God and of our neighbor are inseparable; the one is known and proved by the other.

 “And His commandments are not burdensome” as long as we are not carried away with worldly possessions.  If we stay focused on the promises of eternal happiness, then the yoke of Christ will be sweet and His burden light. 

“The victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  All that is really required of us is to have faith in Who Jesus is and truly believe and live out the example He gave us.  We are not Christians because of the works we perform; we are Christians because of what Jesus did; and if we truly believe in Him, then our faith will naturally move us to perform charitable works.        

Gospel Commentary
It is only the life of prayer that can help us hear Jesus speak the words, "Peace be with you," when the turmoil of our lives has us hiding within ourselves.  Only Jesus can penetrate the locked doors of our hearts but like the disciples, it requires us to have knowledge of Him which comes by means of spending time with Him. 

Our own wounds and scars are reminders of our Savior's Hands and Side; but trying to have some understanding as to why it is necessary to have these emotional and physical imprints of life's struggles arrives at the doors of our hearts with the loving invitation: "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you."  More precisely, the Greek text translates as: "According as the Father has commissioned Me, also I am sending you."  That translation with the use of "commissioned" perhaps gives a clearer understanding of authorization, or that power has been conferred to go and do the work of the Lord.  Saint Gregory tells us: "And so, He [Jesus] says 'as the Father has sent Me,' etc; that is, when I send you amid the scandals of the world, I love you with the same love with which the Father loved Me upon Whom He imposed this burden of suffering."  Saint Augustine adds: "We know that the Son is equal to the Father but here we recognize the words of the Mediator.  He shows Himself as standing in between by saying, 'He sends Me and so I send you.'" 

No matter how old in age we become or how much more we advance in maturity, we are still "children" of God; and very few passages in Scripture depict that better than this Gospel.  Do you have any recollections of your own childhood when you would run and hide for fear of the repercussions of some mischievous act you had committed?  Here the apostles are hiding out for fear of the Jews because of their association with Jesus Christ. 

Just before this Gospel story, Mary Magdalene had seen the risen Lord and went to tell the others.  If you recall on Palm Sunday, when Jesus was arrested the apostles fled.  Because of this, you can imagine their initial fear when Jesus, through locked doors, appears to them.  Jesus says to them: "Peace be with you."  They must've thought they were seeing a ghost which may be the reason why Jesus shows them His Hands and His Side.  Once they realized it really was Him, before they rejoiced, one can imagine that what went through their minds was a big Aramaic, "UH-OH!"  It's human nature to assume that once we've betrayed someone, they will come back with a vengeance.  But Jesus returns offering His peace.  This not only teaches us something about our God but also is a blueprint for us as to how we should deal with each other.  We've all had experiences of being hurt as well as hurting others.  But we can't hide from each other forever.  When our paths cross again, the label of "Christian" should dictate that we receive one another with the peace and forgiveness of Jesus.  We all have the same enemy who tries to corrupt our relationships; and is very good at it since we're more apt to blame flesh and blood. 

When Jesus breathes on the apostles and gives them the power to forgive or retain sins, the Council of Trent defined this as the moment that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance. 

Most certainly it was no accident that Thomas was not present.  Divine Providence was at work here because future disciples would need his doubts to combat their own skepticism.  When Thomas is given the opportunity to touch Christ's Wounds, he doesn't merely say, "Okay, now I believe."  Rather, Providence saw fit for Thomas to make a divine proclamation which would echo for an eternity: "My Lord and my God!"  These words remove all misconceptions.  This is Jesus Christ and He is risen from the dead and He is our Lord and our God. 

Tertullian, an early Church writer, in his work titled: "De Carni Christi" defends the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by suggesting that the apostles would not have bought into it if they had not seen our Lord with their own eyes.  He wrote in Latin: "Natus est Dei Filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est.  Et mortuus est Dei Filius; prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est.  Et sepultus, resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile."  This translates as: "The Son of God was born; there is no shame, because it is shameful. And the Son of God died; it is wholly credible, because it is ridiculous. And buried, He rose again, it is certain, because impossible."  Tertullian defended the true faith against the heresy of Docetism which touted that Jesus was pure Spirit; and the story of the Incarnation had only a symbolic meaning, while the Crucifixion and Resurrection were illusions.