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Posted by on Apr 24, 2022

Mercy – A welcoming back into the circle

Mercy – A welcoming back into the circle

Easter is both a day and a season. For fifty days, we bask in and reflect upon the great mystery of the Resurrection. The Sunday after Easter, the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. We have a chance on this day to notice God’s loving presence in our lives, even when we are not consciously aware of that presence and possibly even actively turning away from it.

Many years ago, I was teaching a group of 5th and 6th graders in our parish religious education program. I had the children for two years at a time, so we got to know each other well. One year I had a girl in the class who was quite bright. She could also be quite impulsive and outspoken. Everyone liked her and she was a natural leader.

I always started class by calling the children into a circle. We recited a verse, sang a prayer, and then prayed for their special intentions before I began to present the topic of that day. One day, she was not feeling ready to begin class when I called them together. We met after school on a Thursday, so they were all tired of school by that time of day. I made class as little like school as possible, to help them enjoy our time of learning together. But she was not ready to stop visiting with her friends and enter into our lesson. Instead, she turned her back to me and commented that she didn’t like what I had just said to her, so she wasn’t going to join us.

There we were. A group of ten to fifteen people in a circle, ready to begin our time together and one person had turned away from us. The other children were astounded at her behavior and clearly wondered what I would do.

What would you do?

Here’s what I did. I spoke to the other children and called their attention to what we were seeing. We were all there together happily, in a circle and ready to begin our activity. One person had turned away. It was a beautiful example of what happens when we choose not to do what the Lord is asking us to do. What happens when we choose to go our own way and refuse to go the Lord’s way. The Lord and the community are still there waiting and inviting us to join the circle. We turn away. As soon as we turn back, we are immediately incorporated back into the group.

When my student realized that she had just given me a perfect example of what we were going to be learning that day, she turned back immediately, filled with apologies to her classmates for giving me a chance to teach them through her example. Of course, all was forgiven and we continued with the lesson. That year we were learning about God, prayer, and sacraments. It was just perfect timing!

The Gospel reading from St. John today speaks of something similar (Jn 20:19-31). It is Easter Sunday evening. The disciples are gathered in the upper room. They don’t really understand what has happened. It’s the first day of the new week, the day after the Sabbath. And here appears Jesus. The first thing he says to them is, “Peace be with you.” To show them he wasn’t a ghost, he showed them his hands and his side, pierced by nails and sword. Again, he spoke to them, “Peace be with you.” Not a word of condemnation or scolding for having run away or denied him. Just Peace.

Then he went even further, breathing on them the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who is love, giving them authority to forgive the sins of other humans. This is pretty amazing stuff. Humans can forgive like God does and on behalf of God?

Thomas wasn’t there that night. He didn’t believe a word of it. No sir, not a word of it. Furthermore, he made clear, he would not believe until he had seen for himself and touched the nail marks and the sword wound in Jesus’ side. A week later, Jesus appeared again and called Thomas to touch his hands and his side, instructing him to believe now. Jesus also spoke words that ring through the centuries to all of us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We are some of those millions and billions of people who have believed without physical evidence of the Lord’s resurrection.

The people of Jerusalem saw the evidence of his resurrection in the community that formed among them, caring for each other and those around them (Acts 5:12-16). They recognized the power of healing that flowed through them and brought the sick out to be seen and healed. Many joined the community because of the love they saw among those who were already followers of the way.

We too see the Lord’s presence in the community around us. We experience it in the actions of other members of our community. We see healing and forgiveness that draw families and communities back together. As the early followers of Jesus were noticed, people who have seen the love within our families and communities have also been drawn to seek the Lord.

On Easter Sunday, the eighth day of creation dawned. A new start for humans and for our relationship with God burst forth. A community came into being that would grow and eventually encircle the globe, a community of love and forgiveness. A community led by “one like a son of man” who is “the first and the last, the one who lives.” The author of the Book of Revelation shares with us this vision he received and the encouragement to continue in faith as a community (Rev1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19). In obedience, he writes down what he has seen, because it is happening and continues to be happening, not just then, but into our times and into the future. The circle of Divine Love and community is always present. We are free to turn toward the circle or to turn away. Divine mercy waits patiently for each of us to turn back into the circle and rejoin the dance of life.

As we move forward during this season of Easter, how do we welcome those from whom we may have become estranged?  How do we reach out in love and forgiveness? How do we seek reconciliation with those whom we have hurt? How do our communities welcome the stranger or encourage the one who has grown tired and lost hope? How can we be the face of the Lord’s mercy and love? How do we receive it in our own lives?

It’s a new day. Creation is new and our relationship with God is fresh and ready to grow. The Lord is Risen! Mercy is ever-present! Alleluia.

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Posted by on Mar 24, 2015

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis - Canonization_2014-_The_Canonization_of_Saint_John_XXIII_and_Saint_John_Paul_II_(14036966125) - Jeffrey Bruno - Creative CommonsOn March 13, the second anniversary of his papacy, Pope Francis announced a special year of prayer and other special activities to celebrate God’s unlimited mercy. The announcement was made as part of the Pope’s homily while he was presiding over a Lenten penance service. Divine mercy is one of the Pope’s major themes in his preaching and pastoral activity. The year will officially begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2015) and end on the Feast of Christ the King (November 20, 2016). The Holy Year of Mercy also marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. It will be marked by special ceremonies and liturgies. Since this Holy Year is outside the traditional 25 or 50 year interval for regular Holy Years it is called an Extraordinary Holy Year.

The Pope declared:

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”

Jubilee years began in 1300 with Pope Boniface VIII and are traditionally held every 25 years. The concept of the Holy Year is modeled on the Old Testament Jubilee Year in which the fields rested, slaves were freed, and debts were forgiven. The Jubilee Year specified in Leviticas was to be held every 50 years.

Traditionally, the Jubilee door of St. Peter’s Basilica is opened at the beginning of Holy Years to symbolize the return of penitents to the faith. Additionally, special plans are being made for the celebration in 2016 of Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter.

See a video of the announcement here.

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Posted by on Apr 18, 2012

Coming Soon — An Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy

Divine Mercy – Entering the Locked Rooms of our Hearts

 

Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius

Divine Mercy Sunday falls each year on the second Sunday of Easter. On this day we hear the story of Jesus’ appearance on Easter evening to his disciples who were hiding in the locked room where they had celebrated their last meal with him only a few days earlier. They were confused, frightened, bewildered, incredulous, and all the emotions in-between. They knew he had been executed. They knew that for the most part they had deserted him in his time of suffering. Yet the women had come bearing the message that he was risen from the dead. Peter and John had found the tomb empty. And now … here he was before them.

What would he say? “You blankety-blank sorry excuses for friends — I don’t know what I ever saw in you!” “How could you abandon me?” “Go take a long walk off a short pier.” “I’m done with you!”

The rest of us might have said such things. Such feelings would be accepted as only human. But Jesus said nothing of the sort. What did he say? “Peace be with you.” Not just once. He repeated it that night and again the next week, when he came again, with a special mission to reassure Thomas of his resurrection.

The early disciples were ordinary men and women like all of us alive today. Like them, we hide away, locking our fears, hurts, anger, doubts, shame, and uncertainty deep within. We hesitate to let anyone see or touch us in our pain, even our Risen Lord. So he comes to us too and offers peace. The mercy and absolute forgiveness of God are ours through Jesus. As our deacon, Patrick Conway, reminded us all Sunday morning, our best response is to allow Jesus to enter into our lives in their deepest, most hidden and hurting areas with God’s loving mercy and healing power. When we receive Communion, we, like the disciples in that locked room, find our Lord and Savior in the midst of our lives and we too receive the power to forgive and the gift of being forgiven.

As we bask in the gift of Divine Mercy this week, may the mercy, love and peace of the Risen Lord be with each of us. Then may we carry God’s mercy forward with us to all we meet in the year to come.

Painting by Eugene Kazimierowski.
Photograph by Alma Pater.
GNU Free documentation license.

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Posted by on May 7, 2011

Sharing in Divine Mercy

The second Sunday of Easter is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Gospel reading (Jn 20:19-31) tells of Jesus’ appearance to His disciples in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday evening. He appeared among them, wished them Peace, showed them His wounds and asked for something to eat. Then He breathed on them, the breath of the Holy Spirit,  and told them to forgive sins. He told them to continue the work He had begun, taking the Good News of God’s love out to all the world.

When I was growing up, the message of this Gospel’s story of the granting of power to forgive sin was generally presented in terms of the power of priest to forgive sins in the sacrament of Penance (now more often known as Reconciliation). However, as I listened to the Gospel proclamation last Sunday, the Good News I heard was of the gift given to all of us as followers and disciples of Jesus – the power to forgive those who hurt us in some way.

Forgiveness does not come easily to anyone. When hurts come along, it’s often much more satisfying to plot revenge, or bask in a stew of martyred pouting or otherwise hold on to the hurt. But Jesus knew something we often miss. The one most hurt, the one most diminished, the one who suffers most from such behavior is the one who engages in it! Perhaps that is why He was so quick to forgive those who had abandoned and denied Him just a few days earlier.

As we live our calling as followers of Jesus, we share the task of bringing forgiveness, reconciliation and peace to our families, communities, nations and world. Anything that stands in the way of this mission is to be suspect. We can’t forgive through our own power. Some wounds are just too deep for our human ability to heal. But Jesus is with us and He can heal them if we are willing to open them to His touch. And as we receive healing, we are called to pass it on, so that the waves of forgiveness and healing at last embrace all the people of the world. It’s truly a noble calling.

Peace be with you.

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