John 20:19-31
A Mission of Mercy
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  (Jesus) said to them again.  "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord."  But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." 

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and he said, "Peace be with you."  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

In every season of the church’s liturgical year, we are compelled by the love of God to proclaim boldly God’s mercy. We do not focus only on God’s burning desire to forgive us during the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent, but also during the seasons of Christmas and Easter.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II designated the Second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday. One critical part of his motivation was the humble life and powerful mission of St. Faustina Kowalska. The Lord appeared to this unassuming nun numerous times in Poland during the 1930s. He spoke to her about his consuming desire to extend to every corner of the earth his healing forgiveness and asked her to be a champion of his divine mercy flowing profusely from his pierced heart.

Jesus said to St. Faustina: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” (723). “Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion” (1146).

The devotion to Divine Mercy is a wonderful invitation to trust completely in Jesus. “I have opened My Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust” (1520). Devotion to Divine Mercy is also an appeal to extend mercy to others: “If a soul does not exercise mercy in some way, it will not obtain mercy on the day of judgment” (1317).

A second critical motivation that Pope John Paul II had for the new name and focus of the Second Sunday of Easter is today’s Gospel, when Jesus commissions the church with his mission of mercy and provides a clear and definitive ministry of mercy to the bishops and priests. On Easter Sunday night, Our Lord appeared to the Twelve and commissioned them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you … Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” We see this event as an essential moment in Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of confession.

I would like to turn to another wonderful grace of the resurrection — the proven love of Christ that calms our fears. Jesus and his perfect love, made manifest in the resurrection, cast out fear from our lives. When Jesus appears to the apostles in the upper room, John the Evangelist notes that the doors were locked for “fear of the Jews.” Consequently, Our Lord greets the apostles three times during his two visits to the upper room with: “Peace be with you.”

In our first reading for today, Our Lord appears to John the Evangelist in a vision while he was exiled on the Island of Patmos. St. John recounts, “He touched me with his right hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, the one who lives.’”

The risen Jesus calms our fears. The risen Jesus demonstrates that God is faithful to all of his promises. The empty tomb proclaims that God loves us with a love beyond all telling. The resurrection manifests Jesus’ power over sin, Satan and death. The risen Jesus is now able to be wonderfully present to us, as he promised, until the end of the ages. The risen Jesus opened up the gates of heaven to those who believe in him. Earth’s trials and crosses do not have the final say in life. Our Lord’s appearances to his disciples confirm the fact that God desires to be in an intimate relationship of love and life for all eternity with each and every one of us.

With the risen Lord in our boat, we do not need to fear life’s powerful storms.

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