Jesus breathes life into our weakness

The Second Sunday of Easter is also known as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to St Faustina in the 1930s and promised that He would bestow His Divine Mercy to any sinner who totally repents of his/her sins, no matter how grave.

Apr 14, 2023

                     Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Martin Arlando

Divine Mercy Sunday (A)
Readings: Acts of the Apostle 2:42-47
1 Peter 1:3-9;
Gospel: John 20:19-31

The Second Sunday of Easter is also known as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to St Faustina in the 1930s and promised that He would bestow His Divine Mercy to any sinner who totally repents of his/her sins, no matter how grave. Our Lord would not refuse any soul that seeks His mercy.

It is not a mere coincidence that in the private revelations that St Faustina received, Jesus asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.

Therefore, on April 30, 2000, when Pope John Paul II canonised his country-woman, St Faustina, he said, “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter which, from now on, throughout the Church, will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’.”

In brief, this Sunday invites us to contemplate the mercy of God. We experience this Divine Mercy very tangibly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and also in Grace, the unmerited favour, the gratuitous gift which God gives to us out of His compassion and merciful love.

And so, during this Easter season, we walk in the most astonishing and delightful part of the story of God’s dealings with His people in Capturing, Convincing and Calling us to be Christ-centred disciples. So let us again seek to step into this story. What might Jesus have to say to us?

The disciples in our Gospel reading today are hiding. They are hiding for fear of the Jews. Are they hiding from God like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden? Perhaps they are, in a way. What was the last thing they did before the arrest of Jesus? They fled and denied knowing Christ, even though each of them had said they would be willing to die for Jesus. In reality, they are still not willing to die for Jesus. They couldn’t allow the love of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself completely for them, to CAPTURE and CONVINCE them wholesomely, though He has been CALLING out to them repeatedly.

They are hiding and they are terrified. They know Jesus is dead. They know that His body has gone from the tomb but they have no understanding as to what this might mean. I think they believe what Mary first tells them, that the body has been taken away and they don’t know where they have put Him. Mary has since told t-hem that she has seen the Lord but this just makes no sense to them. It is into this context that the Risen Christ appears to the disciples.

What is the first thing Jesus says to the disciples? Does He say ‘Where were you?’ or ‘All of you abandoned me, left me alone to die?’ NO. He says, astonishingly, ‘Peace be with you’. Then John gives us what I think must be one of the greatest understatements in Scripture. He writes: ‘they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord’. Of course, there is an absolute joy in seeing Jesus risen from the dead but I think the rejoicing happens partly because, in saying ‘peace be with you’, Jesus is saying ‘I forgive you, you thought you were no longer my friends but you are still my friends and I say peace be with you.’

In a town, there lived an earnest Christian man who became a magistrate. One morning, there appeared before him in the court a friend of his youth, who had strayed from the paths of righteousness and had committed an offence against the law of the land. Those who knew the relationship between the two men expected the magistrate to deal with the man mercifully, and they were very much surprised when they heard that the sentence was a heavy fine. But they were more surprised when the magistrate went to the officer of the court, and took from his own pocket the money to pay the fine.

He did his duty as a magistrate and upheld the law, but he also showed something of the mercy of God for his friend when he paid the penalty for his friend. There is little wonder that the law-breaker was broken-hearted in his repentance.

And yet, Jesus continues reaching out and He says, ‘peace be with you’ again. Then He does something else astonishing.

He says, ‘I send you’. This is a group of frightened men hiding in a locked room who don’t even understand what has happened to Jesus. In that state, He tells them that He is sending them. There is no sense that they need to pass some kind of test first before they get sent out: they’re ready now. Jesus says ‘as the Father has sent me, so I send you’. It almost sounds like ‘get up, take up your mat and walk’.

Jesus does something really extraordinary. He breathes on them. This brings to mind the very beginning of creation. How does God bring Adam to life when he is created from clay? He breathes on him. Only the Creator God can give life to something that is dead.

In a sense, the disciples in that locked room are dead and lifeless, they are dead in their denial of Jesus, their sins, in the way they have let God down. But, Jesus breathes on them and says ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’

Jesus, the one who, until very recently was dead, breathes life, the Holy Spirit, back into the weak disciples. As St Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians ‘even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead’ (Eph 2:5). In receiving this forgiving power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples are then to do the same, to forgive others in that power. To live as Christ-centred disciples.

Fr Martin Arlando is the parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Good Health, Parit Buntar, Perak.

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