Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven - Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, 2019

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven - Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, 2019

As we celebrate the Mass for the Sunday after Easter each year our attention is captured by the story of Thomas. The Gospel actually spans the apparitions of the risen Lord on the evening of Easter Sunday, and then a second apparition one week later. At this second appearance of the risen Lord, the doubts of Thomas are the focus of the Lord’s attention. We then hear Thomas’ acclamation of faith: “My Lord and my God.”

We are also aware on this Sunday of the theme of Divine Mercy. Throughout the Catholic world devotion to the Divine Mercy will receive much prominence on this day. This is in response to the request of the Lord to St Faustina in his appearances to her in the 1930s that this Octave Day of the Resurrection be devoted to Divine Mercy.

While these two themes deserve attention I would like to consider the risen Lord to his incredulous disciples on the first Easter Sunday evening. St John, whom we always read on this Sunday each year, tells us that the Lord gave two instructions to his disciples when he appeared to them.

The first one was, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” Jesus, the risen Lord, entrusts his disciples with the mission to take up his work and continue it. The Church is now to be the means by which the work of salvation is carried out over the ages.

The second is this. The Lord says: “Receive the Holy Spirit for those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven.” He gives them a specific authority to forgive sins. They are to forgive sins through the power of the Holy Spirit. This now finds particular expression in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Of all the things that Jesus as Risen Lord could have instructed his disciples to do now in his name, he has highlighted this one in particular – to forgive sins.

Forgiveness of sins was a central theme of the preaching of Jesus. He began his ministry by calling on people to repent of their sins. He said to the paralytic seeking a physical healing, “Your sins are forgiven.” He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” He was described as the friend of sinners. He spoke of himself as the divine physician who has come to heal the human soul.

He told several parables about sin and conversion. The best known is the parable of the Prodigal Son. He spoke often of the desire of His Father to show mercy to sinners. He urged his disciples to forgive that they might receive forgiveness. This teaching is enshrined in the Our Father.

His death on the cross was all about the forgiveness of sin. He offered his life in atonement for the sins of humanity.

In the mind and heart of Jesus the reality of sin and the need for forgiveness was paramount. Thus, it is no wonder that this was the first matter that the risen Lord addressed when he appeared to his disciples.

And it is a feature of Divine Mercy Sunday. People are urged to go to confession on this day. Confession is the means by which we can receive mercy, divine mercy.

Thus we read from the Diary of St Faustina: “When you go to confession, to this fountain of mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul.” (1602)

Then the Lord reveals, “I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest ... I Myself act in your soul.” (1602)

The Lord waits for us in the confessional. Like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God waits for us. All he needs to see is a humble and contrite heart. All he needs to hear is, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Then the floodgates of mercy will be opened.

In another place in the Diary the Lord says, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God's mercy!” (1448)

Confession is about the healing of the soul from the wounds of sin. There are strong promises made by the Lord: "The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened." (699)

In these encouragements to go to Confession on Divine Mercy Sunday one hears the fulfilment of the Lord’s words to his disciples in his first post resurrection appearance. As a result of his death and resurrection forgiveness is now available through the ministry of the Church. The ministry of mercy is meant to be the principal service of the Church to humanity.

On this octave day of the Resurrection let us know that Divine Mercy awaits us whenever we would turn to the Lord with humble and contrite hearts.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 28 April 2019