Sunday April 11th, 2021
2nd Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy), Year B
Dear Pastorate Family,
This 2nd Sunday of Easter is the “Octave day” or the 8th day of the “octave” of Easter, the special period of Easter wherein each day within the octave is treated like Easter Sunday itself. Not coincidentally, the Gospel this weekend gives us both an appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday and another appearance exactly 8 days later, on the Sunday following Easter. There are numerous themes in this reading, but St. Thomas the apostle is featured prominently – he wasn’t with the disciples on the original Easter Sunday, but was with them 8 days later. It’s because of the account in this weekend’s Gospel that St. Thomas is often called “Doubting Thomas.” If we’re being honest, that’s a bit unfair. St. Thomas is like modern people in so many ways – seeking empirical, physical evidence of the claim by the other disciples to have seen the risen Lord. And once he sees, then he is able to believe.
St. Thomas represents the modern scientific mind – a mind focused on evidence, on what can be seen or touched and proved through the senses. The risen Jesus gave St. Thomas that experience, giving him the opportunity to touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands, or the wound in His side. And once St. Thomas has that experience, his scientific mind lets him accept the “reasonableness” of faith, such that he can then cry out, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responds with a “beatitude” of faith – “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Faith, in fact, is more foundational than reason, because we first have to believe that our senses can be trusted to give us reliable data. St. Thomas is not so different from us in our approach to life. But we’re called to something higher – we’re called to faith, a faith that believes without seeing or touching, a faith that accepts the testimony of others. May the testimony of the apostles help us believe that Jesus has truly been raised from the dead.
The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion
When the risen Jesus appeared to the polish nun, Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska, of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, in the days around World War II, He gave her the Divine Mercy revelation. Part of Jesus’ request to the Church through Sr. Faustina was that a special “Feast of Mercy” be observed throughout the Church on the Sunday following Easter. St. John Paul II implemented that request of Jesus with the 2nd Sunday of Easter being also known as “Divine Mercy Sunday” or as we know it now, “Sunday of Divine Mercy.” To understand Jesus’ message of Divine Mercy, it’s helpful to remember a simple acronym – FINCH. “F” stands for “Feast” (the “Feast of Mercy” which we celebrate this weekend, a special day in which God’s mercy can be sought for the whole world); “I” stands for “Image” (the image of Divine Mercy, an image of Jesus with the inscription, “Jesus, I trust in You!” written at the bottom); “N” stands for “Novena” (the Novena of Divine Mercy, which begins on Good Friday and ends on the Feast of Mercy, the Sunday following Easter); “C” stands for “Chaplet” (the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, prayed on regular Rosary beads, whereby Catholics implore God’s mercy on the whole world); and “H” stands for “Hour” (the Hour of Divine Mercy, the 3 p.m. hour at which the Gospels tell us Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins). The message of Divine Mercy is the availability of God’s mercy for sinners, and our call to practice mercy towards others, especially with the Corporal and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Gospel this weekend gives us Mercy with Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples and saying to them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retrained.” The disciples, and their successors, the Bishops, and the Bishops’ coworkers, the priests, are especially entrusted with an Apostolate of Mercy with the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. None of us should ever be afraid to seek out God’s Divine Mercy available to us in Reconciliation.