The floodgates of mercy are open - Second Sunday of Easter (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The floodgates of mercy are open - Second Sunday of Easter (C)

The Gospel of today, the Octave Day of Easter, takes us to the Upper Room, the same room where the Lord had the Last Supper with his disciples. Following his death it seems that the bewildered disciples used this room as their refuge and a place to meet together. No doubt frightened and confused, they were reluctant to be seen on the streets, particularly as a group. Thus, the Upper Room became their temporary home, their sanctuary, in Jerusalem. St John tells us that the doors were locked “for fear of the Jews”.

It was in this room that the Resurrected Jesus revealed himself to his disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday.

As Catholics we are familiar with the Gospel reading of this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, which firstly takes us back to the first Easter Sunday appearance of the Lord and then recounts the story of the second appearance a week later.

St John highlights the absence of Thomas from that first appearance and his subsequent refusal to believe that the Lord had indeed risen. Then he records that the risen Jesus, a week later, singles out Thomas and invites him to place his finger into the holes that the nails have made. This is followed by Thomas’ wonderful testimony of faith: “My Lord and my God”.

Over the years the story of Thomas has been the theme of our reflections on this Octave Day of Easter. However, now a new element has been introduced. For many it was initially seen as an intrusion on the evident spiritual message of the Gospel of the day.

On the occasion of the canonisation of St Faustina, on 30 April, in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II, declared: “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday”. He was responding, of course, to the repeated requests of the Lord to St Faustina for this feast to be established on the Sunday after Easter.

But why this Sunday? In our focus on the story of the doubt and then testimony of faith by Thomas we have overlooked something of great significance that occurred when the Lord appeared to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday evening.

We are told by St John that the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room and the doors were closed when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst. We are told that he greeted them with the words, “Peace be with you” and then showed them his hands and side. He wished them to have no doubt that it was he, who had been crucified and received the unique wound of the spear penetrating his heart.

It was none other than Jesus himself who had died on Calvary, was laid in the tomb, but was now living in his body in a glorified state. An extraordinary revelation beyond their imagining.

Then repeating his greeting he made two significant announcements. The first was: “as the Father sent me so I am sending you”. These confused and bewildered disciples were to become his apostles announcing his resurrection to the world.

The second was this: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those who sins you retain they are retained”.

These men were to be agents of the Holy Spirit and the first mission they were to perform was the forgiveness of sins. In this moment he instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This particular sacrament was the Easter gift.

Why was the forgiveness of sins so important? Why was it uppermost in the mind of the Lord? Why were his disciples to see their role as being the conduits of the forgiveness of God?

Because this is what Calvary was all about. It was about the reconciliation of humanity with God. Jesus went to the cross as the act of sacrifice so that sins could be forgiven. Forgiveness of the sin of humanity lies at the heart of the whole purpose of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord.

We pass over sin so lightly. We fail to understand how central it is in the mind of God. Sin is the obstacle to union with God. It prevents us being able to live as true sons and daughters of God. It seriously damages our relationship with God, more than we will ever understand, because God is holy. Holiness is the basis for a full communion of ourselves with God.

We were told in Scripture: “Be holy as I am holy” (I Pet 1:16)

St Faustina was told by the Lord: “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy”. God wants people to understand his desire to forgive and pour forth his mercy upon them. Referring to the Feast of Divine Mercy the Lord said to her: “On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I will pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy”.

The Lord continues: “On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet”. (Diary 669)

The commission the risen Lord gave to his disciples was to forgive sins. The Easter gift is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of mercy. Divine Mercy Sunday eloquently declares the depths of the desire of God to pour forth his mercy on humanity.

Let us drink from the fount of mercy. Let us quench our thirsty souls from these life-giving waters. Let us bring new life and fruitfulness to our lives by using the Sacrament of Reconciliation often.

Today is not just the proclamation of the depths of Divine Mercy, but the opportunity to receive mercy in a personal way. The floodgates of mercy are open on this day.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 3 April 2016